North Dakota Democrats urge resignation over fake Omar photo

Published 7:04 pm Friday, October 25, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Senate Democrats have joined the call for a state senator to resign his leadership position in the wake of his Facebook posts targeting a Muslim congresswoman from Minnesota.

The Bismarck Tribune reported that Democratic senators wrote a letter Thursday to Sen. Oley Larsen, a Minot Republican, asking that he relinquish his position as president pro tempore. Their letter comes a day after Larsen sent an email to his fellow senators, asking to “gauge each of your stance” on his leadership role.

“I personally do not feel that this action warrants resignation of my Pro Tempore status,” he wrote. “I ask each of you to provide me your opinion on this issue to assist me in deciding my next action.”

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Larsen this week posted a long-debunked photo that purports to show Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar holding a weapon at an al-Qaida training camp. The image is an Associated Press photo showing a female Somali army recruit at a Mogadishu military training campus in 1978, four years before Omar was born in 1982.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner and GOP Gov. Doug Burgum have called on Larsen to apologize and to relinquish his position as president pro tempore, a post in which he presides over sessions when the lieutenant governor is absent.

Larsen, who has not responded to requests for comment from the AP, wrote that he won’t resign from “any of my positions” in the Legislature. He wrote on Facebook that he was “sorry for spreading fake news” and was “willing to own my role in spreading misinformation” before he lobbed fresh criticism at Omar. He made it clear he would not apologize to Omar.

In their letter, members of the Senate Democratic-NPL Caucus wrote: “Your words and actions have negatively and unnecessarily drawn attention to you, our chamber, and this state.” They added his actions “were unbecoming of both positions to which you were elected.”

Republicans hold 37 seats in the Senate to the Democrats 10.

Omar is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia and is one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.