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Don Samuels denies sexist statements made in podcast amid Rep. Ilhan Omar rematch

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s challenger Don Samuels denies controversial statements
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s challenger Don Samuels denies controversial statements 07:06

MINNEAPOLIS — Early voting starts this coming Friday for Minnesota's August 13 primary.

One of the big showdowns is the Fifth Congressional District rematch between Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels.

The August 2022 primary was a shocker, with Samuels coming within 2 percentage points of beating the incumbent Omar

The Fifth District contains all of Minneapolis and some inner-ring suburbs. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic, so the winner of the Democratic primary is the likely winner in the November election. 

Omar appears to have learned from her near-loss two years ago. Her campaign says it has more field organizers than ever before, including in the suburban parts of the district.

The congresswoman was widely criticized in 2021 for her support of a controversial referendum in Minneapolis that would have replaced the city's police department. Since then, Omar has broken with progressives on some police issues, even helping to negotiate a 2022 bill that provides additional funding for departments across the country.  

Ilhan Omar and Don Samuels WCCO

She also has broken with some progressives in voicing early support for President Biden's reelection despite her sharp criticism of U.S.-Israeli policy in the war in Gaza.

During an appearance on the podcast "The Break Down" last November, Samuels said Omar is "not cute enough" and doesn't "dress well enough" to get away with allegedly ignoring her constituents. Here is the full transcript:

To not get back to people on the phone? Who do you think you are? And who do you think you're working for? You're not cute enough, you don't dress well enough, nothing about you is attractive enough to overcome that deficit.

Samuels denied making that statement when he appeared on WCCO Sunday Morning at 10:30 a.m.

"It was a comment about constituent service and being available, et cetera, and I said that her constituent service and her access to the public was not adequate," Samuels said. 

Omar blasted Samuels in November for his podcast remarks.

"This is beneath the dignity of any adult, let alone someone seeking public office. It is reminiscent of the worst kinds of lies and misogyny that we are hearing from people like Donald Trump, who think they can say anything about women and get away with it," Omar said. "Like Trump, instead of engaging in an adult debate, Don relies on lies and sexism. We need civility now more than ever and Don's behavior should be alarming to anyone who agrees." 

Omar and Samuels have similar positions on many issues, ranging from the environment to abortion rights. Both are also calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

You can watch WCCO News Sunday Morning with Esme Murphy and Adam Del Rosso every Sunday at 6 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

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