Accuracy in Media

Two months after allegations of an extramarital affair made news, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) officially filed divorce papers from her husband, Ahmed Hirsi. In August 2019, Omar was accused of having an affair with a married political consultant named Tim Mynett.

Mynett’s wife, Dr. Beth Mynett, accused Omar and her husband of an affair. The Mynetts, according to court papers filed in August, have been separated since April 2019, when Tim Mynett allegedly told Beth about his affair.

Omar’s office denied the allegation, although she had allegedly separated from her husband during the summer.

Now, Omar’s lawyer blamed the media and her political opponents for undermining her marriage. Part of the statement said, “Ilhan and Ahmed have been the object of speculation and innuendo from political opponents and the media…This has taken a significant toll on Ilhan, Ahmed, and their three children.” It continued, “As with all marriages, this is intensely personal and a difficult time for their family…Just like any other family navigating this kind of transition, Ilhan wishes to have their privacy respected for themselves and their children and will not be commenting any further.”

However, when one looks at the facts, it is difficult to solely blame political opponents and the media for a divorce. Omar’s personal relationship history is complex and it is understandable to not air one’s relationships in the public eye. But to lay blame at the media and political opponents is misguided because relationships are a personal decision, and although public pressure and perception can stress a relationship, it is not the sole cause for the end of a relationship as relationships entail a variety of factors.

But Omar had stone-walled inquiries from the local newspaper, the Star-Tribune, on whether she was married to her biological brother in order to help him obtain legal immigration status. Opponents, such as President Trump, suggested she engaged in this false marriage and therefore violated the law.

PolitiFact summarized the marriage controversy and discussed it with the local Minnesota newspaper, the Star-Tribune. The Star-Tribune said it “could neither conclusively confirm nor rebut the allegation that he is Omar’s sibling.” PolitiFact’s summary about Omar’s personal history is as follows:

• “In 2002, Omar, then 19, religiously married Ahmed Hirsi, but not legally. Omar and Hirsi had two children, but in 2008, they obtained a religious divorce. The following year, in 2009, Omar married Ahmed Nur Said Elmi both religiously and legally.”

“Little is known about Elmi, other than that Omar has referred to him as a “British citizen” and that he attended high school in the Minneapolis area and, like Omar, later attended North Dakota State University.”

• “In 2011, Omar and Elmi divorced religiously, but remained married legally. In 2012, Omar and Hirsi reconciled and had a third child. In 2017, Omar legally divorced Elmi, and the following year, she legally married Hirsi.”

• “In 2016, as Omar was seeking a state House seat, the conservative website AlphaNewsMN, followed by other ideological sites, posted a screenshot of an Instagram post — since deleted — that was allegedly uploaded by Elmi on June 12, 2012, shortly after Omar gave birth to her third child. The caption of the photograph identified Elmi as holding the baby girl, calling her “nieces.” To some, this suggested a sibling relationship.”

• “Omar has denied the allegation that Elmi is her brother — she has called the charges “disgusting lies,” the AP reported — but has not provided further documentation to debunk it. She did tell the Star-Tribune in October 2018, before she was elected to Congress, that “it’s really strange, right, to prove a negative. … If someone was asking me, do I have a brother by that name, I don’t.””

• “In June 2019 a different problem emerged for Omar: During an investigation of alleged misuse of campaign funds by Omar, a Minnesota campaign finance board determined that Omar had filed joint tax returns with her future husband, Hirsi, at a time when she was legally married to Elmi.”

Divorce can be ugly and antagonistic, especially in the public eye, and are not beneficial for children, as academic research notes. But, for Omar’s camp to blame a divorce on the media and political opponents is disingenuous because she has not been forthcoming in context of her personal relationships, which could be a major factor that contributed to her divorce.

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