Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been “singling out” freshman congresswomen of color — the latest charge in a growing rift between the leader of the party in the chamber and the high-profile progressive freshman.
The comments from lawmakers highlight the tension Pelosi is facing trying to keep her caucus united between a liberal left wing of the party, the moderates that flipped red or purple districts as well as establishment members of the party. But over the past week, it’s remarks that Pelosi herself made that appears to have angered a group of four lawmakers – shorthandedly referred to on Capitol Hill as a “the squad” – which includes Ocasio-Cortez.
“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Post in an interview published Wednesday.
“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 color,” Ocasio-Cortez added.
Ocasio-Cortez stood by her claim Thursday that Pelosi has been unfairly zeroing in on freshman women of color.
“It’s really just pointing out the pattern, right? We’re not talking about just progressives, it’s signaling out four individuals,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN on Capitol Hill. “And knowing the media environment that we’re operating in, knowing the amount of death threats that we get, knowing the amount of concentration detention, I think it’s just worth asking why.”
Asked if she thinks Pelosi has racial animus or is racist, Ocasio-Cortez said unequivocally, “No, no, absolutely not, absolutely not.”
During her weekly news conference later Thursday, Pelosi did not directly respond to Ocasio-Cortez’s comments.
“We respect the value of every member of our caucus,” Pelosi told reporters when asked by CNN about recent criticism of Ocasio-Cortez and three of her freshmen colleagues. “The diversity of it all is a wonderful thing.”
She argued that progressives took offense because she addressed “at the request of my members an offensive tweet,” alluding to Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff’s post that compared moderates to segregationists (he has since deleted the tweet).
“How they’re interpreting and carrying it to another place is up to them, but I’m not going to be discussing it any further,” she said.
Other lawmakers criticized Ocasio-Cortez’s comments more directly. Rep. Lacy Clay of Missouri accused Ocasio-Cortez of using “the race card” in her comments to the Post.
“What a weak argument,” Clay said. “Because you can’t get your way, and because you are -, you’re getting pushback, you resort to use the race card? Unbelievable. Unbelievable to me