When a newly-elected Somali-American lawmaker alleged on social media last week that she was the victim of anti-Muslim verbal abuse in a Washington, D.C. taxi cab, a number of mainstream media outlets tied the incident to Donald Trump and the alleged rise of Islamophobic rhetoric that is supposedly running rampant across the nation in the wake of the Republican’s White House win.
But the victim, Ilhan Omar, has since provided details that suggest that her driver was likely not a Trump supporter and that the incident had nothing to do with the president-elect. The 34-year-old Omar, who was elected to office in Minneapolis, said in a statement released on Monday that her driver was an African immigrant.
Before that detail emerged, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Salon and other reliably left-of-center outlets portrayed the verbal assault against Omar as the result of a Trumpified America.
Omar, who is the first female Somali-American elected to office in the U.S., wrote about the incident on Dec. 7. In a post that was light on details, Omar said that she was harassed the day before after being picked up by a cab after she attended an event at the White House.
Omar wrote that “on my way to our hotel, I got in a cab and became subjected to the most hateful, derogatory, islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats I have ever experienced.”
“The cab driver called me ISIS and threatened to remove my hijab,” Omar added.
Though Omar made no mention of Trump, news outlets filled in gaps in the lawmaker’s non-descript post.
The Washington Post picked up the story and mentioned Trump and comments he made last month about terrorism within the Somali community in Minnesota. The left-wing outlet Salon referred to Trump in the second paragraph of its article. Newsweek cited Trump’s statement that he would review the “faulty” refugee process that has allowed a number of Somali refugees into the U.S. who have later pledged allegiance to ISIS. Jezebel and Mic, two liberal outlets, also jumped on the story and tied it to Trump.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow also ran a segment about Omar. The host editorialized that Trump “whipped up fear and anger about Somali-Americans living in Minneapolis” at an event in Minnesota just before Election Day.
The takeaway from the outlets was clear: Omar’s bully was a hateful bigot who must have been emboldened by Trump’s win.
Omar provided more details in her interview with Maddow. In addition to saying that her driver was an African immigrant, she said that she received the verbal onslaught after an apparent disagreement about a route that the driver was taking to her hotel.
“Do you think I would want to chauffeur around filthy people like you,” the driver said, according to Omar.
Omar said that she told the driver that she was young enough to be his daughter and that an older man should not talk to younger women that way.
“I don’t have disgusting children like you,” the driver said before calling Omar ISIS and saying that he should remove her hijab.
On Monday, Omar said that she has filed complaints with Washington D.C.’s Department of For-Hire Vehicles and with the city’s Human Rights Commission about the incident.
“I did not, however, file a police report, because I believe criminalizing hate is not a solution and will only strengthen individual malice,” she wrote.