During an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes host Lesley Stahl on Jan. 10, 2021, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used most of the segment to share her personal experience of the attack on the Capitol Building by right-wing insurrectionists and supporters of President Donald Trump less than a week prior. Pelosi, who was presumed to be one of the lawmakers specifically targeted by the rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, recounted how her staff “went under the table, barricaded the door, turned out the lights, and were silent in the dark…under the table for two and a half hours,” hiding in order to escape a potentially violent mob.
Pelosi mainly focused on both the rioting at Capitol Hill and the role Trump seemed to play in “inciting violence” (as Twitter Safety worded it in their permanent suspension of Trump’s account), with Pelosi stating his actions as a basis for a possible second impeachment. The speaker also took the time to make a jab at one of her fellow party members and frequent rival: New York House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
So what exactly brought about Pelosi’s remarks about Ocasio-Cortez?
Nancy Pelosi 'dismissed' comments made by AOC during the interview
In a Jan. 10, 2021 appearance on the CBS news program 60 Minutes, host Lesley Stahl brought up criticisms levied by some against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress who skew towards an older age demographic. In doing so, Stahl specifically mentioned remarks made by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez which criticized Pelosi for neglecting to mentor younger members of Congress.
“Why does AOC complain that you have not been grooming younger people for leadership?” asked Stahl. In response, Pelosi stated during the interview that “we have [brought young people into the leadership]. You perhaps don’t know.” When Stahl called continued to question the California representative, Pelosi offered a short rejoinder: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask [Ocasio-Cortez], because we are.”
After Stahl critiqued Pelosi’s answer as “dismissive,” Pelosi then countered the host. “I’m not dismissing her,” Pelosi explained. “I respect her. I think she’s very effective, as are … many other members of our caucus that the press doesn’t pay attention to. But they are there and they are building support for what comes next.”
Do AOC’s criticisms and Pelosi’s comments indicate a longstanding clash between the two legislators?
Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have a history of in-fighting
When it comes to tension between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, there’s unfortunately a longstanding precedent between the two. As CNN reported in July 2019, the pair have had somewhat of a sordid, storied history of partaking in party in-fighting ever since AOC assumed office in 2018.
As the media outlet noted, it’s difficult to pinpoint a reason for the friction between the two, but it’s speculated that Pelosi’s adversarial approach towards Ocasio-Cortez is possibly a byproduct of a freshman lawmaker rattling a member of the old guard. And, per CNN, part of Pelosi’s ire might also stem from their different understanding of the part social media can play in the sphere of politics.
“While there are people who have a large number of Twitter followers, what’s important is that we have large numbers of votes on the floor of the House,” Pelosi told USA Today in an April 2019 interview.
But as CNN pointed out, Ocasio-Cortez has hardly taken Pelosi’s remarks lying down. In a December 2020 interview with The Intercept, AOC candidly stated that the party needed “new leadership.” She then went on to call out Pelosi and fellow lawmaker Chuck Schumer for failing to provide mentorship for more junior members of the House — the same criticism Pelosi “dismissed” in her 60 Minutes interview.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn't the only legislator who rubs Nancy Pelosi the wrong way
As CNN noted in July 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has used Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s use of Twitter, as well as her millions of followers on the platform, to criticize the way in which the younger House representative have gained traction for legislative proposals like the Green New Deal. And, as CNN also observed, it also not only extends towards AOC, but to three other House lawmakers as well: Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar.
Along with Ocasio-Cortez, the junior representatives have been given the nickname “The Squad” in the press, due to their similar political ideologies, their use of social media to express these ideologies, and the fact that their ages skew towards the younger end of the spectrum in comparison to their colleagues — all of which has seemingly irritated Pelosi.
“All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi told The New York Times in a 2019 interview, referring to the four representatives and their use of social media to speak directly to their supporters and base. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”
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