Conservative senator apologizes for tweet citing Liberal MP's Saudi background
Conservative Sen. Denise Batters apologized to Liberal MP Omar Alghabra Thursday for her choice of words in what some interpreted as a racist tweet.
"My intent was to suggest Mr. Alghabra's experience living in Saudi Arabia would give him unique insight about the difficult situation in which Canada and KSA find themselves," Batters wrote today in a follow-up to an earlier tweet questioning why Alghabra appeared on CBC's Power and Politics to address the diplomatic conflict with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
"I absolutely did not intend to suggest that Mr. Alghabra's birthplace or background has any impact on his ability to represent Canadians on this, or any issue. That is not what I believe, nor what I meant to convey.
"I apologize to Mr. Alghabra and to Canadians for my choice of words."
Batters deleted her tweet shortly after issuing the apology.
Alghabra, who is a parliamentary secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, appeared on Power & Politics Wednesday to discuss the ongoing diplomatic spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia.
Shortly after his appearance, Batters retweeted a clip of the interview, accusing the Mississauga MP of using government talking points and saying it may have been "interesting" for host Vassy Kapelos to ask Alghabra whether his birthplace "impacts this file for him."
"Another day, another Liberal MP put up by #Trudeau govt in national media simply to spout #PMOTalkingPoints & answer zero questions. #WhyNoMinister? With this MP on #pnpcbc, may have been interesting to ask him whether his birthplace being #SaudiArabia impacts this file for him," tweeted Batters.
Alghabra was born in Saudi Arabia to a Syrian family.
In response, Alghabra tweeted, "Senator, I'm a proud Canadian who is consistent in defending human rights. How about you?"
Senator, I’m a proud Canadian who is consistent in defending human rights. How about you? <a href="https://t.co/uGHGstvGoO">https://t.co/uGHGstvGoO</a>—@OmarAlghabra
Batters replied to Alghabra, saying she meant no offence and that she simply thought Alghabra would have "a unique perspective to offer."
Absolutely. No offence meant. Just thought you have a unique perspective to offer. We are all so lucky to live in Canada, where human rights are valued.—@denisebatters
The exchange quickly caught fire online, with several Twitter users condemning Batters. Liberal MP Adam Vaughan described the tweet as "straight up xenophobic bigotry" and called on Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to expel Batters from caucus.
"Casual racism from a sitting senator. Unacceptable," tweeted Michael Solberg, son of former Conservative MP Monte Solberg.
"It is truly a sad day for the Senate, Canadian Politics and the country as a whole," said Twitter user Ray Leech. "You have the privilege of being a member of the Senate. It's the Upper Chamber not a Trump rally."