Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi made a curious charge without evidence on a Sunday talk show, saying some pro-Palestine protesters are “connected to Russia” and called on the FBI to investigate the financing of the protests.
Next week will see the four-month mark of the recent escalation of the Israel-Gaza conflict, after the October 7 Hamas attack killed 1,200 people and abducted some 240 hostages, and the Israeli military response has since killed an estimated 26,000 people in Gaza. The extended conflict is complicated trouble for President Joe Biden, as his support for Israel is something of a liability in the 2024 election. And while it’s well-established that Russia prefers to sow dissent against Biden in favor of their preferred candidate Trump, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi alleged, without evidence, a yet-unheard-of charge Sunday that some of the pro-Palestine ceasefire movement is linked to Russian influence, according to the New York Times.
The clip above is not the full exchange from Sunday’s Pelosi interview on CNN’s State of the Union, but you can see a more complete exchange on CNN. Host Dana Bash asks a fairly standard question, “How concerned are you that young people, Arab Americans, progressives — I’m not suggesting they're going to go vote for Donald Trump — but how concerned are you that they might just stay home?”
“They’re in front of my house all the time,” Pelosi first quipped, “So I have a feeling for the feelings that they have.”
Yet then she engaged in some speculation.
“For them to call for a cease-fire is Mr. Putin’s message,” Pelosi went. “Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see. Same thing with Ukraine. It’s about Putin’s message. I think some of these protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia.”
Per NPR, she added, "I don't think they're plants. I think some financing should be investigated. And I want to ask the FBI to investigate that."
In response, a furious Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a statement calling Pelosi’s remark “an unsubstantiated smear” and “downright authoritarian.”
“Her comments once again show the negative impact of decades of dehumanization of the Palestinian people by those supporting Israeli apartheid,” CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad added in that statement. “Instead of baselessly smearing those Americans as Russian collaborators, former House Speaker Pelosi and other political leaders should respect the will of the American people by calling for an end to the Netanyahu government’s genocidal war on the people of Gaza.”
And the New York Times adds that Pelosi’s office offered a slight walkback after the show aired. “Speaker Pelosi has always supported and defended the right of all Americans to make their views known through peaceful protest,” that statement said. “Speaker Pelosi is acutely aware of how foreign adversaries meddle in American politics to sow division and impact our elections, and she wants to see further investigation ahead of the 2024 election.”
It is true that Russia has tried to interfere in the last two US elections, and likely will again this year. And Russia has backed a ceasefire in Gaza. Yet there is currently no evidence of a connection between these two things, and it remains to be seen whether this FBI investigation Pelosi is calling for will actually happen.
Image: NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 16: Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks onstage during Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi in Conversation with David Rubenstein at 92NY on October 16, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)