North Dakota lawmaker condemned for sharing debunked meme about Rep. Ilhan Omar

He has since removed the photo after widespread criticism.
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A lawmaker in North Dakota has been widely criticized after posting a repeatedly debunked racist meme about Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Sen. Oley Larsen, a Republican from Minot, on Monday shared a picture that he claimed showed the Minnesota congresswoman at an "Al'Qaida training camp."

The picture has been used for right-wing memes before, and has been repeatedly debunked as showing Rep. Omar, not least because it was taken by the Associated Press four years before she was born.

Larsen deleted the post after the initial outcry, though Grand Forks Herald columnist Rob Port shared screenshots he had taken prior to deletion, noting that Larsen followed up by referring to Rep. Omar as an "elected terrorist" in the comments.

Rep. Omar, who attended North Dakota State University, denounced Larsen's post as "pure propaganda designed to stir up hate and violence," and also used it as an opportunity to criticize Facebook for its ongoing failures to tackle fake news and offensive content.

"Facebook's unwillingness to crack down on hate speech and misinformation is not just threatening my life, but our democracy," she tweeted.

Omar is a regular target for right-wing attacks, which she says has resulted in threats being made on her life.

She has been a regular target for criticism from President Donald Trump, whose racist comment that she and fellow progressive Democrats like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib should "go back" to the "crime infested places from which they came" was widely condemned in July.

In his Say Anything Blog, columnist Rob Port, himself a conservative, said that fake attacks like Larsen's undermine Republicans efforts for genuine criticism of Omar's statements and policies.

"Rep. Omar says and does things that are offensive enough without fabricating phantom connections to Islamic extremism," he writes, adding: "If Senator Larsen meant this as a joke, shame on him. He should know better.

"If he believes it, I think we may need to question his competency to hold elected office."

Larsen has not commented publicly on the photo.

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