Right-wing rumor makes Ilhan Omar's marital status a news story


Ilhan Omar didn't get long to celebrate her historic primary election victory. 

Last week, Omar, a 33-year-old legislative candidate born in Somalia, ousted longtime DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn (Minneapolis) in the Democratic primary, clearing the way for Omar's election in her strongly liberal district in November. When she wins, Omar will be the first Somali-American elected to state legislature anywhere in the United States.

Looks like the path to victory won't be as easy as she thought. Over the weekend, the right-wing blogosphere was ablaze with a story that first appeared on the local Power Line blog. Its root accusation: Omar's public persona as a married mother of three was a lie.

In fact, Power Line wrote, Omar is married to two people, simultaneously. And one of them is her brother. 

Both of those things are sort of frowned on in American society, and its legal statutes, and Power Line made the most of its claims, calling its report "a major local story with national implications." (Nice of them to notice how important they are.) The "local story" part has been borne out, with the Star Tribune following up on Omar's still-murky marital situation this morning. 

Omar has not directly addressed the allegations herself. Campaign manager Ben Goldfarb issued an almost-total denial to the Star Tribune, calling Power Line's story about marrying two people at once, one of them her brother, "categorically ridiculous and false." (Against Power Line, the campaign deployed a defense attorney to handle its message.) Goldfarb's statement leaves some room to manuever, but Goldfarb did say unequivocally that Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, the man Omar married in 2009, is not her brother. 

What Elmi is, according to current legal records, is her husband: The newspaper found no record the two had filed for divorce. That also means she hasn't legally married Ahmed Hirsi, the father of Omar's three kids, and the man who was presented on the campaign trail as her spouse.

About that relationship, Goldfarb said only that Omar and Hirsi had "weathered some storms, but what matters most is that they came out of it together."

In her own statement, Omar said the "baseless, absurd rumors" are evidence of "[Donald] Trump-style misogyny, racism, anti-immigration rhetoric, and Islamophobic division."