President Donald Trump said during a Friday press appearance that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) "is not a racist," responding to comments from freshman representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez implying that the speaker holds racist opinions.
"Cortez should treat Nancy Pelosi with respect. She should not be doing what she's doing," Trump said. "And I'll tell you something about Nancy Pelosi that you know better than I do. She is not a racist, okay? She is not a racist. For them to call her a racist is a disgrace."
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Trump also mentioned Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), saying that "if half of the things they're saying about her are true, she shouldn't even be in office." He added that Ocasio-Cortez and Omar, as well as Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.), are "being very disrespectful" to Pelosi.
Pelosi and the so-called "squad" of freshman congresswomen have been engaged in a feud since the four took office in January. The tensions snapped earlier this week, when Pelosi downplayed the four's influence over Congress in an interview with the New York Times.
"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."
Ocasio-Cortez shot back with a tweet criticizing Pelosi.
That public "whatever" is called public sentiment.
And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country. https://t.co/u6JtgwwRsk
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 7, 2019
Pelosi later told House Democratic leaders not to criticize her in public.
"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," Pelosi said, according to the Hill.
Ocasio-Cortez doubled down on her pushback, implying that Pelosi's rhetoric might be motivated by racial animus.