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Fox News condemns host's comments about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar

Host Jeannine Pirro said Omar may not support the US Constitution because she wears a hijab
Jewish- and Muslim-American activists have come to Omar's defence (AFP/File photo)

Fox News has condemned recent comments by host Jeannine Pirro about US Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, which prompted accusations of racism and Islamophobia, as well as calls for Pirro to resign, over the weekend.

Pirro, host of the Fox News show "Justice with Judge Jeannine", on Saturday said the fact Omar wears a headscarf (hijab) may mean she doesn't support the US Constitution.

Late on Sunday, Fox News released a statement condemning the host's comments, US media outlets reported.

"We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro's comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar," the US cable news network said, as reported by The Hill. "They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly."

On Monday, Omar herself thanked the network for its statement.

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"Thank you, @FoxNews. No one's commitment to our constitution should be questioned because of their faith or country of birth," she wrote on Twitter.

Pirro's segment on Omar came after days of controversy over the congresswoman's criticism of Israel and questions she raised about the influence exerted by pro-Israel lobby groups on US politics.

Omar faced several days of attacks from US journalists, commentators, pro-Israel groups and others, including members of her own Democratic Party, who accused her of anti-Semitism.

Jewish- and Muslim-American activists came to her defence, however, saying Omar never said anything anti-Semitic.

"In a time of rampant Islamophobia and anti-black racism coming from the halls of power, [the] Democratic leadership ... needs to be standing with black Americans and not scapegoating them," said Rabbi Alissa Wise, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, during a rally last week.

Jewish and Muslim activists express support for Ilhan Omar
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Top Democratic presidential contenders Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren also issued statements denouncing Islamophobic attacks against Omar and highlighting the distinction between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel.

On her show on Saturday, Pirro said Omar did not get her "anti-Israel sentiment" from the Democratic Party.

"Think about this, she's not getting this anti-Israel sentiment doctrine from the Democrat Party, so if it's not rooted in the party, where is she getting it from? Think about it. Omar wears a hijab, which according to the Quran 33:59 tells women to cover so they won't get molested," she said in the segment.

"Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to sharia law? Which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?"

'Such an open and un-American expression of religious bigotry should be rejected by any media outlet seeking even a modicum of credibility'

- Council on American-Islamic Relations

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Sunday called for Pirro to be fired.

"Such an open and un-American expression of religious bigotry should be rejected by any media outlet seeking even a modicum of credibility," said the group's national executive director, Nihad Awad, in a statement.

"Jeanine Pirro should be fired, and Fox News should apologise to its viewing audience."

In a statement of her own, responding to the criticism, Pirro said she "did not call Rep. Omar un-American".

"My intention was to ask a question and start a debate, but of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don't support the Constitution," she said, as reported by US media outlets.

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