Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was in no hurry to condemn Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) for her remarks conflating the humanitarian crisis at the border with Nazi-era "concentration camps," and instead warned Democrats that Republicans may try to pounce on controversial words.
At first, Pelosi, who was the keynote speaker at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Wednesday, tried to pretend she wasn't privy to Ocasio-Cortez's questionable history lessons, which commanded hours of back-and-forth on Twitter Wednesday and saw the freshman congresswoman from New York defending claims that migrants being held at the United States' southern border pending adjudication hearings on their asylum claims were being placed in "concentration camps" not unlike Nazi death camps.
“These members of Congress, they come to represent their districts and their point of view and they take responsibility for the statements that they make,” Pelosi told reporters, according to the New York Post.
She then claimed to have encountered Ocasio-Cortez's remarks only in passing.
“I’m not up to date with her most recent remarks,” Pelosi said. “I saw them on the news, but I haven’t spoken to her about that.”
The pair — Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez — are not known for their friendly work relationship. Ocasio-Cortez is a frequent critic of Pelosi, particularly in recent days, following Pelosi's decision not to actively pursue impeaching President Donald Trump over allegations that he obstructed justice during Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive, has made Pelosi a top target of her intra-party ire, and made a sit-in at Pelosi's office one of the first items on her agenda when she came to Washington, D.C.
But Pelosi is also not known to have a stiff backbone when it comes to policing controversial rhetoric from her colleagues. When Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) made a series of remarks that were blatantly anti-Semitic, Pelosi, who first suggested Omar should be censured, eventually gave in to the House Democrats' progressive caucus and abandoned plans to affirm Congress' support for the state of Israel and unequivocally condemn Omar's hateful remarks.
In this case, it seems, Pelosi would rather have nothing to do with the congresswoman from New York or the trouble she's currently causing Democrats, who are actually trying to settle on a bipartisan funding solution for the Department of Homeland Security.
Later on, after she had time to collect her thoughts and apparently consult Twitter, Pelosi again failed to condemn Ocasio-Cortez and instead warned fellow Democrats that their "words" could be used as weapons against them by Republicans waiting to pounce.
“I do have comments to make to the caucus at large about the political nature of — how politically charged that atmosphere is," Pelosi added later Wednesday morning. “So understand that while the Republicans have no interest in holding the president accountable for his words, they will misrepresent anything that you say just — if you have one word in a sentence they can exploit.”
It's hard to make a claim that Republicans are "misrepresenting" Ocasio-Cortez's statements, particularly given that they are made on social media where they are readily accessible for quoting. Only a handful of Democrats have even bothered to stand up for Ocasio-Cortez, among them Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who inadvertently helped Republicans prove that when Ocasio-Cortez refers to "concentration camps," she is actively comparing the Trump administration's actions to those of Nazi Germany.
"One of the lessons from the Holocaust is ‘Never Again’ – not only to mass murder, but also to the dehumanization of people, violations of basic rights, and assaults on our common morality," Nadler tweeted. Ocasio-Cortez later retweeted his comments approvingly.