Pelosi snaps at reporter over AOC feud about 'singling out women of colour'

Spat exposes generational and ideological divide within party as it prepares for 2020 elections

Andrew Buncombe
Seattle
Thursday 11 July 2019 12:37
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Pelosi snaps at reporter over AOC feud about 'singling out women of colour'

Nancy Pelosi has snapped at a reporter when asked about claims she had targeted “women of colour” – including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – who spoke out on social media.

At a meeting of Democratic members of the House of Representatives earlier this week, the speaker had reportedly issued a warning to those who were using social media to speak critically of other members of the party.

“We’re a family and we have our moments,” Ms Pelosi told colleagues, according to the Associated Press. “You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK.”

Ms Ocasio-Cortez, who was not at the meeting, later responded. She told the New Yorker she believed Democrats were becoming “the party of hemming and hawing and trying to be all things to everybody”.

Later, in far more stinging comments to the Washington Post, the New York congressman suggested there was a racial aspect to what was playing out.

Initially she believed Ms Pelosi’s comments were an attempt to keep the progressive wing at arms length, said Ms Ocasio-Cortez. She added: “But the persistent singling out….it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful – the explicit singling out of newly elected women of colour.”

At her weekly press conference on Thursday, Ms Pelosi, 79, a white liberal from California, was asked about her relationship with Ms Ocasio-Cortez, and other progressives such as Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley – nicknamed by some as ‘The Squad’ – who were first elected in the 2018 midterm elections and been outspoken on a number of issues.

“They took offence because I addressed, at the request of my members, an offensive tweet that came out of one of the members’ offices that referenced our Blue Dogs and our New Dems essentially as segregationists,” said Ms Pelosi said. “Our members took offence at that. I addressed that. How they’re interpreting and carrying it to another place is up to them.”

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She said was not going to discussing the issue any further, adding: “I said what I’m going to say.”

When a second reporter asked a similar question, the speaker appeared to get annoyed.

“I’ve said what I’m going to say on this subject....We respect the value of everyone in our caucus,” she said. “That’s all I’m going to say on the subject. If you want to waste your question, you can waste your question.”

The spat underscores the ideological and generational breadth that exists within the party.

While many younger Democrats have supported moves such as the impeachment of Donald Trump, Ms Pelosi has sought to act with some cautious. She has points out that not everyone in the party, and certainly not everyone in the country, shares the same views as Ms Ocasio-Cortez, and others who have become stars for progressives.

This divide has also coloured the Democrats effort to nominate a challenger to Mr Trump in 2020, with people such as 76-year-old Joe Biden, claiming he can appeal to a broad swathe of Americans, with others demanding a candidate who can generate genuine enthusiasm among the party’s grassroots supporters.

CNN said it had approached Ms Ocasio-Cortez and asked her if she believed Ms Pelosi had any “racial animus” or was racist. She replied: “No, no, absolutely not, absolutely not.”

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