Twitter Permanently Suspends Accounts of Ilhan Omar’s Potential Challenger

Twitter suspended the accounts of Danielle Stella, a Republican candidate hoping to challenge Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota next year, after she suggested the congresswoman should be tried for treason and hanged.

Ms. Stella’s campaign account said on Tuesday, “If it is proven @IlhanMN passed sensitive info to Iran, she should be tried for #treason and hanged,” according to screenshots of the tweet. She later added a photo of a stick figure hanging from the gallows, The Washington Times reported.

The tweet referred to unsupported stories that Ms. Omar was recruited as a “Qatari asset” who gave information to Qatar that was given to Iran, something she denied to The Jerusalem Post. The office for the congresswoman called the stories “outlandishly absurd.”

The personal and campaign Twitter accounts for Ms. Stella, who is running for Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, which elected Ms. Omar in 2018, were permanently suspended for “repeated violations” of the platform’s rules, Twitter said in a statement on Saturday.

Twitter’s hateful conduct policy says users may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people based on a number of factors.

Ms. Stella’s campaign website describes her as a special education needs professional who has dedicated her life to caring for children with autism and who “firmly” supports the president. She is one of at least five Republican candidates seeking the party’s nomination in an August primary.

“My suspension for advocating for the enforcement of federal code proves Twitter will always side with and fight to protect terrorists, traitors, pedophiles and rapists,” Ms. Stella said in a statement on Saturday.

In a statement on Facebook on Friday, Ms. Stella said she had not threatened anyone.

“If you are calling it a threat — you believe that individual is guilty, and therefore it is not a threat, it’s treason,” she wrote, adding that traitors to the United States should be tried for their crimes.

Ms. Stella said critics were making her post about race, religion and “about anything but the truth.” She has since been the target of death threats from the “angry liberal mob where facts don’t matter, only emotion,” she wrote.

Ms. Omar, who is one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress and is no stranger to threats, responded on Twitter.

“This is the natural result of a political environment where anti-Muslim dogwhistles and dehumanization are normalized by an entire political party and its media outlets,” she wrote on Friday. “Violent rhetoric inevitably leads to violent threats, and ultimately, violent acts.”

Ms. Omar’s office did not return requests for comment on Saturday.

The suspension this week raised eyebrows, as President Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack others and stoke outrage without facing consequences from the platform. Amid calls to terminate the president’s account, Twitter said in October that it would be lenient with world leaders who violate the rules, saying there was a clear public interest value to keeping their tweets.

Twitter’s suspension of Ms. Stella’s accounts may cause politicians to pay close attention to what they’re posting, one expert said.

“Twitter’s trying to send a message that, like, there’s a line you can cross in terms of violating our terms of services, and even though it’s politically uncomfortable for us to have to enforce these bans, we are going to do this,” Joshua A. Tucker, a professor of politics and co-director of the New York University Center for Social Media and Politics, said on Saturday.

Politicians may see this and act accordingly to avoid losing access to Twitter, he said.

Professor Tucker added that it was smart of Twitter to take action against someone who is not an office holder and is in a primary election, so the company could not be accused of interfering with a current public officeholder or affecting the outcome of a general election.

However, the suspension could work in Ms. Stella’s favor.

“Of course, this might help her by generating tons of national attention for her, and she may end up getting lots of donations from Republicans around the country who feel they want to take a stance against Twitter interfering,” he said.


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