A Maryland state senator and congressional candidate has denied writing a tweet posted to his account that referred to Rep. Ilhan Omar as “illegal.”
Republican Johnny Ray Salling, who announced last week that he will challenge Maryland Democrat Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger in 2020, said in a statement Monday that the tweet “was not from me.”
“I’m getting the record straight; the [July 24] tweet was not from me,” Salling said. “I believe in God & Country 1st. Please note-I don’t react to statements of negativity. Thanks to a dear friend for her letting me know about this issue. Thank you for your understanding & support.”
The tweet was posted to Salling’s account in reply to an article about Omar and read: “Get rid of this illegal [now]!!!!!”
Salling’s account posted the tweet in late July amid a national conversation about President Trump’s taunt of Omar and other freshmen members — to “go back” to the “places from which they came” — on July 14.
Omar, a Somali refugee, is a naturalized citizen and member of Congress.
Salling deleted the tweet after questions from The Baltimore Sun.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, called on Salling to apologize for the remark or to resign.
“Regardless of personal views and biases, elected officials have a responsibility to conduct themselves impartially and to demonstrate that they can model tolerance and inclusivity for all of their constituents,” Zainab Chaudry, the organization’s director of Maryland outreach, said in a statement.
Salling has not heeded calls to apologize. Instead, he denied writing the tweet, telling the Sun: “Honestly and truly, I don’t recall that.”
Salling has not tweeted much since the state legislative session wrapped up in April. His only other tweet since then was directed at Trump — an effort to alert the president to his congressional race.
@realDonaldTrump Thank you for all that you are doing Mr. President! I am Senator Johnny Ray Salling. I am now running for Congress in Maryland against Dutch Ruppersberger. Praying that I have the opportunity to work with you! God bless you and God bless America!
— Johnny Ray Salling (@SenJohnnyRay) August 13, 2019
Scrutiny of the post followed the state senator’s announcement at a diner on Thursday that he would run for Congress to represent the Baltimore-area district.
The Republican candidate, a former steelworker at the since-closed Sparrows Point Steel Mill, has centered his platform on generating economic growth and jobs, according to his Facebook page.
Ruppersberger, a 9th term congressman, won his last reelection by 35 percentage points.