Pelosi on rising tensions with Ocasio-Cortez: 'I've said what I'm going to say'

The House speaker confirmed Thursday that a tweet from the New York congresswoman's chief of staff prompted her to issue a warning to her caucus this week.
Image: Nancy Pelosi
"I’ve said what I’m going to say on this subject,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday of apparent rising tensions between her and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.Andrew Harnik / AP

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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that her warning to Democrats this week against displaying intraparty tensions on social media was sparked by a tweet from the top aide of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., but declined to comment further on rising tensions with the freshman lawmaker.

At her weekly press conference, Pelosi was asked about the recent indirect exchange she and Ocasio-Cortez have had via media interviews — a dynamic which entered a new stage Wednesday with the publishing of an interview in which the New York lawmaker suggested that she and a handful of her congressional allies were being "singl[ed] out" by the speaker as "newly elected women of color."

“I’ve said what I’m going to say in the caucus. That’s where this is appropriate,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday morning.

She then suggested that Ocasio-Cortez and her close allies in the caucus were annoyed at the speaker’s remarks to the caucus Wednesday.

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“They took offense because I addressed, at the request of my members, an offensive tweet that came out of one of the members’ offices that referenced the Blue Dogs and our [Democrats] as segregationists. Our members took offense at that. I addressed that,” she said. “How they are interpreting and carrying it to another place is up to them, but I’m not going to say anything further.”

Pelosi said she would not respond to further questions on the situation. “I’ve said what I’m going to say. With all due respect, maybe you didn’t hear what I said," she told reporters. "I’ve said what I’m going to say on this subject.”

At their weekly caucus meeting Wednesday morning, Pelosi told rank-and-file members to keep their gripes with fellow Democrats behind closed doors. “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.”

The remark followed a tweet from Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti over the weekend that said moderate Democrats "certainly seem hell-bent to do black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s." He later deleted the tweet.

Ocasio-Cortez fired back at Pelosi in an interview published by The Washington Post late Wednesday.

“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 Post. “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.”

In a Maureen Dowd op-ed published by The New York Times on Saturday, Pelosi downplayed the influence of Ocasio-Cortez and three other progressive freshmen members of her caucus: Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

“All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi said. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.”

On Thursday, Pelosi told reporters that she respected the value of every member of her caucus.

“Diversity is our strength. Unity is our power,” she said. “We have a big fight, and we’re in the arena, and that’s all I’m going to say on this subject.”