ABC News: Ilhan Omar's primary challenger "weaponizing her celebrity status," you know

Behold this totally balanced and not-at-all loaded Twitter headline from ABC News regarding today’s primary in MN-05. “Weaponizing her celebrity status”? Or pointing out that the district could get a progressive Democrat without going the full Farrakhan about Jews?


What does that mean? “Pouncing with guns,” one Twitter follower suggested, but we know that only Republicans pounce, according to media standards. Or maybe it’s a scale:

On that scale, expect to see media outlets report this as “pouncing” soon.

The actual report from ABC does a bit better in reporting on the race, at least at first. They feature Antone Melton-Meaux’s actual argument against Omar — not “celebrity,” but on her anti-Semitic remarks and campaign-finance scandals:

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., is set to defend her seat in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District on Tuesday, in one of the most expensive primary campaigns in the state.

Antone Melton-Meaux, a Black lawyer and mediator, has emerged as Omar’s most serious challenger. He has capitalized on the several controversies that have marred the congresswoman’s first term, including Omar’s criticism pertaining to the influence of pro-Israel donors and accusations of potential campaign finance violations.

In an interview with ABC News, Melton-Meaux described himself as a progressive who wants to address the “underlying systemic issues of racism,” the inequities in education, housing, health care and the economy, as well as to move toward reducing carbon footprint.


However, the report also includes the “weaponizing celebrity” take too:

While her national profile has turned Omar into a progressive firebrand, her opponent has been weaponizing her celebrity status.

Melton-Meaux has repeatedly critiqued Omar as disengaged from her constituents, more focused on achieving personal fame and national celebrity than on resolving the district’s problems.

I’m not sure how that’s “weaponizing” anything. Did the media report that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “weaponized” those same arguments against Joe Crowley two years ago? Or how Dave Brat “weaponized” them against Eric Cantor? Those are pretty traditional arguments from primary challengers to incumbents, even those without “celebrity,” which in Omar’s case should probably be described more as “notoriety.”

NBC News doesn’t do much better, but at least they don’t claim that Melton-Meaux has “weaponized” anything:

Rep. Ilhan Omar is about to learn whether voters in her Minneapolis-area congressional district support the mix of confrontational, anti-Trump progressivism and celebrity that she brings to the job.

Omar, the first Somali American and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, is facing a surprisingly well-funded challenger in Minnesota’s Democratic primaries on Tuesday. Antone Melton-Meaux, a Black lawyer and mediator, raised millions of anti-Omar dollars to fill mailboxes and flood airwaves. His “Focused on the Fifth” message has portrayed Omar, a member of “The Squad” of four progressive female lawmakers, as out of touch with the 5th District.

Omar rejected Melton-Meaux’s attacks, saying they were funded by interests that wanted to get her out of Congress because she’s effective. She also downplayed Melton-Meaux’s money and played up her ground game before the vote, saying, “Organized people will always beat organized money.”


Thanks to a “tidal wave” of mail-in ballots, we probably won’t know tonight who won in MN-05. Usually it’s safer to bet on the incumbent, but in this case there seems to be a lot of dissatisfaction with Omar and her constant scandal eruptions. Omar’s standing has deteriorated enough that the Star Tribune felt compelled to endorse Melton-Meaux as a way to restore “integrity and progress.” Just how influential that  endorsement will be is anyone’s guess, but it also reflects current Minneapolis thinking about its one-term wonder. And in an ominous sign for Omar, she’s not getting a lot of help this time around from her progressive pals:

Omar is being vastly outspent on the air, a dynamic that is usually concerning for an incumbent. Melton-Meaux has spent nearly $2.1 million on TV ads, compared to Omar’s $875,000, according to data compiled by the media tracking firm Advertising Analytics. Omar has invested some $400,000 on digital ads but Melton-Meaux has $1.5 million in outside help.

A high-spending super PAC, Americans for Tomorrow’s Future, has also waded into the race, spending close to $2.5 million on mailers and TV ads criticizing Omar and boosting Melton-Meaux. The group had previously contributed to DMFI PAC — a pro-Israel super PAC that unsuccessfully tried to save Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) in his primary with Jamaal Bowman — and uses Anedot to process payments, a firm popular with Republicans until it was recently usurped by WinRed. …

Progressive groups, who spent big to help Tlaib in her primary last week, have not done much to back up Omar. The congresswoman’s internal polling from early July showed her with a big lead — but some operatives in the party fear this primary will be much closer than Tlaib’s.


Is that an oversight, or a deliberate choice to put the scandal-plagued Squad member at arm’s length?

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