Sanders defends Trump's anti-Omar tweet

President Donald Trump has accused Democrat Ilhan Omar of making light of 9/11 and anti-Semitism.
President Donald Trump has accused Democrat Ilhan Omar of making light of 9/11 and anti-Semitism.

US President Donald Trump did not wish any harm in his Twitter post criticising Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar's comments on the 9/11 attacks, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says.

"Certainly the president is wishing no ill will, certainly not violence towards anyone," Sanders told ABC News' This Week show on Sunday. "But the president is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman for her, not only one-time, but history of anti-Semitic comments," she said.

Lawmakers from Trump's Republican Party have accused Omar of minimising the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks by al-Qaeda on the United States that killed almost 3000 people, while critics of the president say he took Omar's words out of context to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted a video suggesting that Omar, a US representative from Minnesota, had been dismissive of the 9/11 attacks that destroyed New York's World Trade Center and struck the Pentagon outside Washington.

The video spliced news footage of 9/11 with a clip from a speech Omar gave last month in which she described the attack as "some people did something".

She later sought to defend herself by tweeting a quote from George W. Bush days after 9/11, when the then Republican president referred to the attackers as "people".

Several prominent Democrats, including presidential candidates senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, condemned Trump's tweet, saying he was inciting racism and violence towards Omar with the video.

Omar has said she has been the target of islamophobic death threats.

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Sunday she had spoken with the sergeant-at-arms, who is responsible for safety in congress, to ensure that Capitol Hill Police were conducting a security assessment to safeguard Omar, her family and her staff.

"The president's words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger. President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video," Pelosi said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Pelosi's statement.

In her speech before a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, Omar said Muslims had "lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I'm tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it."

Neither Trump's tweet nor the video included Omar's full quote or the context of her comments, which were about Muslims feeling that their civil liberties had eroded after the attacks.

The tweet was posted atop Trump's Twitter feed for much of Sunday, with more than nine million views.

Sarah Sanders called Omar's comments "disgraceful and unbefitting", and questioned what she saw as lack of action from Democrats on the issue.

"I think it's a good thing that the president is calling her out for those comments and the big question is why aren't the Democrats doing it," she said.

Omar's comments began circulating in media outlets last week, leading critics to question her loyalty to the US.

Responding in a tweet, Omar said the commentary amounted to "dangerous incitement", adding: "My love and commitment to our country and that of my colleagues should never be in question."

Australian Associated Press