Need more evidence that politicians doubling down on conspiratorial muttering has become a bipartisan problem in Washington? Allow us to present freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who is all in on the conspiracy theory, newly trendy on the left, that there’s something very fishy about South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham’s recent flip-flop on supporting Donald Trump—and that the only rational explanation is that the president must be blackmailing him.
After first spreading this conspiracy in a Tuesday tweet—“They got to him, he is compromised!”—Omar doubled down in an interview with CNN Thursday morning. As they wrapped up a puff segment praising Omar for being the first lawmaker to wear a hijab in Congress, the anchors tentatively asked whether she would care to “explain” her comment about Graham.
To their obvious discomfort, she declined to do so: “Over the last three years, we have seen many times when Sen. Lindsey Graham has told us how dangerous this president could be if her were given the opportunity to be in the White House. And all of the sudden, he’s made not only a 180 turnaround, but a 360 turnaround. And so I am pretty sure that there is something happening with him, whether it is something that has to do with his funding, when it comes to running for office, whether it has something to do with the polling that they might have in his district, or whether it has to do with some sort of leadership within the Senate. He is somehow compromised to no longer stand up for the truth.”
“But that’s quite a charge to make—you say you’re pretty sure,” one anchor pursued. “Based on what evidence? What facts? That’s a remarkable comment to make about a sitting U.S. senator.”
“The evidence really is, um, present to us,” Omar replied. “It’s being presented to us in the way that he’s behaving…. My tweet was just an opinion based on what I believe to be visible to me, and I’m pretty sure there are lots of Americans who agree on this.”
The real reason Graham has flip-flopped on Trump, of course, is relatively plain: Like a horde of others who opposed the president during the 2016 election, he has bowed to the political realities that Trump owns the Republican Party and has gone along to get along. But some on the left have recently seized onto conspiracies about Graham in particular—in many cases, piggybacking off the threadbare old canard that the unmarried senator might be secretly gay.
As far back as 2010, some of Graham’s opponents were speculating that the senator’s public stances were secretly the result of sexuality-related blackmail—although at the time those accusations came from Graham’s right, not his left. (“Like maybe I’m having a clandestine affair with Ricky Martin,” Graham laughed to the New York Times then.)
Give her partial credit: Omar declined to spread that particular rumor. But if this is a taste of what we can expect in 2019, that may prove a small comfort.