Was Heritage questioner a former candidate for Congress?

Noah already delivered a takedown of Dana Milbank’s dishonest report of a Heritage Foundation panel on Benghazi, but the story didn’t quite end there. The emergence of the video of the event thoroughly discredited Milbank, but he didn’t back down from his conclusion that the panel attacked a soft-spoken young Muslim woman who just offered a question, and suffered intimidation from the audience as a result. Claiming that “it’s all subjective,” Milbank then offered to provide audio of his interview with the young woman, Saba Ahmed:


If it comes down to the credibility of the witness, then perhaps knowing a little more of her back story might help with that “subjective” judgment. Ms. Ahmed is a little more than a law student at American University, as she introduced herself. She is same Saba Ahmed that tried to win the Democratic nomination to the US House of Representatives in the 2012 cycle, only to change party affiliation to the GOP after drawing less than one percent of the Democratic vote (via Gary Eaton and Michelle Ray):

Saba Ahmed, the young Muslim woman from Beavertonwho ran in the Democratic primary for Oregon’s 1st District congressional seat, says she has switched to the Republican Party.

From her Facebook page:

“Never thought I would see this day, but I am officially a registered REPUBLICAN. Thank you to all the Oregon Democrats for helping me realize my Conservative Potential. Looking forward to 2012 Republican Victories!”

Ahmed, who had interned for then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, has been a frequent participant in Democratic events.  She received less than a half-percent of the votes in last week’s primary.


The same Facebook link features a number of items about Ahmed’s appearance at the Heritage panel, too. She’s clearly not just a young naïf who might have been overwhelmed by a panel response. In fact, in an earlier profile from The Oregonian, Ahmed’s background shows that she has solid experience in public activism:

In 2004, at the age of 19, she graduated with a double major in electrical engineering and physics at Portland State University.  She’s been active in Democratic volunteer circles in recent years, participated in a pair of programs to train women to run for political office and did internships for then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

She has also been frequently interviewed as a friend of the family of Mohamed  Mohamud, the Somali-American teenager accused of attempting to bomb a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland last year.

The Oregon blog 54-40 or Fight had these links, plus other subjective assessments of Ahmed’s politics:

Saba Ahmed has garnered attention for being friends with Mohammed Osman Mohamud, the Portland Christmas Tree Bomber – so much so that she was removed from his court hearing when the judge charged her with contempt. She is also a 9-11 truther who believes that the Flight 93 crash in Shanksville, PA was staged.

She tends to seek out any opportunity to get in front of microphones and cameras to undermine conservative causes and messages. She has been removed from many Republican events in Oregon as well as Tea Party rallies, and most conservatives recognize her as unwelcome due to her ulterior motives.

So it’s no surprise that when one door closes, she seeks other avenues to project her message – like, for instance, Occupy Portland[.]


Ahmed acknowledged the hostility from conservative grassroots in the area, but chalked them up to Islamophobia:

And yes I was banned from the Oregon Tea Party and Washington County Republicans earlier this year because of my Islamic beliefs, but I have to believe there is room for learning. I have to try and make a place for myself even if i’m unwelcomed. I know several tea party republicans hate me because they somehow blame me for 9/11. But I know once we talk to each other, get to know one another, we can all heal together. Inshallah!

Sounds something like what Milbank tried in his hit piece, too. The only problem was that Heritage videotapes their events, and the videotape shows that the panel and the audience was enthusiastic but hardly intimidating — and that Ahmed herself was polite and respectful, if not entirely quite honest about herself. As Erick Erickson also points out, Ahmed’s question was actually off-topic for the panel, which might have been entirely benign — or an attempt to generate the kind of gotcha that Milbank thought he’d scored.

Dylan Byers’ analysis seems even more spot-on after getting some background on Ahmed:

Video of that panel has since surfaced and — in my view — Milbank grossly misrepresented the nature of that exchange.

The woman in question, Saba Ahmed, an American University law student, does not seem to have been “taunted.” Both panelists who responded to her accepted the premise of her question entirely. One of them — Brigitte Gabriel, the founder and CEO of ACT! for America — strongly rebutted Ahmed’s concerns, but never dismissed her right to ask the question.

In an email, Milbank explained that he “was there in the room yesterday, and the reaction in the crowd – the long, standing ovation, the cheers for Gabriel, the fingers pointed at Ahmed, the war whoops  —  was intense, and a bit scary. The video captures some but not all of that.”

Milbank is right on that point — the video may not capture everything that took place. However, I do believe that the video disproves or casts doubt on several of Milbank’s assertions.


Whatever audio Milbank has of Ahmed’s reaction should take her own credibility into account for his “subjective” analysis. Milbank himself seems to be singularly lacking in that quality.

Update: I should have also hat-tipped Adam Baldwin, who pointed the way to the above links from Gary and Michelle. My apologies for the omission.

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Jazz Shaw 8:30 AM | February 25, 2024