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Trump under fire over Islamophobia after man threatens to kill Ilhan Omar: Report

A 55-year-old New York man was arrested and charged with threatening to assault and murder Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar
Minnesota Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, left, attends climate rally at US capitol last month (AFP)

Donald Trump and Fox News are coming under fire for contributing to a climate of Islamophobia after the arrest of a supporter of the president who threatened to kill Ilhan Omar, the Guardian reported on Sunday.

A 55-year-old New York man was arrested and charged with threatening to assault and murder Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, a Muslim US Congress member from Minnesota, federal prosecutors said, according to Reuters.

Patrick Carlineo of Addison, New York, faces as many as 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

According to prosecutors, Carlineo spoke by telephone with one of Omar's staff members on 21 March and asked the employee: "Do you work for the Muslim Brotherhood? Why are you working for her, she's a (expletive) terrorist. I'll put a bullet in her (expletive) skull."

The threat was referred to the US Capitol Police, who launched a probe in coordination with the FBI, the Justice Department said.

Although Fox News was not mentioned in the complaint against Carlineo, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez drew a direct link between controversial remarks made by Fox presenter Jeanine Pirro and the threat against Omar, the Guardian reported.

Last month, Pirro attacked Omar’s wearing of the hijab, asking if it was indicative of “her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States constitution”. Pirro was subsequently taken off the air for two weeks.

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In a tweet on Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez implied there was a causal link between Pirro’s comments and the death threat against Omar.

“Understand,” she wrote, “when Jeanine Pirro goes on Fox [and] rallies people to think hijabs are threatening, it leads to this.” She also appealed to people to “talk policy, not personal”.

Just hours after Carlineo’s arrest, Trump mocked Omar before an audience of Jewish Republicans. Sarcastically pretending to thank Omar for her support of Israel, he said: “Oh, I forgot. She doesn’t like Israel, I forgot, I’m sorry. No, she doesn’t like Israel, does she?”

Omar herself did not rise to the provocation, though she did make her feelings known. “My Lord, forgive my people for they do not know,” she tweeted in response to reports of Trump’s speech.

Last month, in the wake of shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, by an admitted white supremacist that killed 50 people, Omar accused Trump of helping whip up the hatred that lay behind such violence, the Guardian said.

As controversy swirled over Trump's tepid response to the massacre, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was forced to deny any affinity between the president's anti-immigration rhetoric and the accused Christchurch shooter's extremist views, AFP said.

"The president is not a white supremacist," Mulvaney said in an interview with Fox News Sunday, responding to critics who accused Trump of echoing the gunman’s rhetoric in comments from the Oval Office just hours after the massacre, the Washington Post said.

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For his part, Carlineo sounded angry during the phone call to Omar’s office, but also spelled his name for the staff member and provided his personal contact details, according to an affidavit by an FBI special agent.

Interviewed at his home by investigators, Carlineo said that he was a patriot, that he loves President Trump and that he hates radical Muslims in the US government, the affidavit said.

Carlineo made an initial court appearance on Friday and is being held pending a detention hearing on 10 April.

He was found to have a shotgun and a .22 caliber handgun in his house, the Guardian reported.

Representatives of Omar, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who was elected in November as one of the two first Muslim women to win seats in Congress, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters said.