Pelosi condemned by Council on American-Islamic Relations for linking pro-Palestinian protesters to Russia

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Sunday condemned Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for linking pro-Palestinian protesters to Russia during a CNN interview in which she also indicated she wants the FBI to investigate any potential financial links.

Pelosi suggested on CNN’s “State of the Union” that some pro-Palestinian protesters who are calling for a cease-fire in Gaza are spreading a message that is beneficial to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“But for them to call for a cease-fire is Mr. Putin’s message, Mr. Putin’s message. Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see. Same thing with Ukraine. It’s about Putin’s message,” Pelosi said. “I think some of these — some of these protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia. And I say that having looked at this for a long time now, as you know.”

When co-anchor Dana Bash asked Pelosi whether she thought some of the protesters were “Russian plants,” Pelosi responded: “I don’t think they’re plants. I think some financing should be investigated. And I want to ask the FBI to investigate that.”

Pelosi’s remarks came after Bash asked the California Democrat about challenges that her party is facing as a result of President Biden’s response to the Israel-Hamas war that has eroded some support from the base, particularly among Muslim and Arab Americans.

“Well, let me just say this, because I have been the recipient of their, shall we say, exuberances, and it’s as recently as in Seattle on Thursday, unfortunately wanted to disrupt our very exciting Democratic meeting there,” Pelosi said referring to a recent event in which she was confronted by pro-Palestinian protesters in front of a hotel.

“They’re in front of my house all the time. So I have a feeling for what feelings they have. But we have to think about what we’re doing. And what we have to do is try to stop the suffering and gossip. This is women and children. People don’t have a place to go. So let’s address that,” she said.

A short time after Pelosi’s remarks aired on CNN, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad condemned Pelosi’s comments in a statement that referred to her remarks as an “unsubstantiated smear.”

“We are deeply disturbed by Former House Speaker Pelosi’s comments,” Awad said. “Rep. Pelosi’s claim that some of the Americans protesting for a Gaza ceasefire are working with Vladimir Putin sounds delusional and her call for the FBI to investigate those protesters without any evidence is downright authoritarian.”

“Sadly, Rep. Pelosi’s comments echo a time in our nation when opponents of the Vietnam War were accused of being communist sympathizers and subjected to FBI harassment,” Awad continued.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans, including many young people, progressive activists, and Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian, and Black Americans, have been protesting to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Millions more Americans support a ceasefire, including the majority of Democrats.”

Awad said Pelosi’s remarks show “the negative impact of decades of dehumanization of the Palestinian people by those supporting Israeli apartheid.”

“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,” Awad said.

Pelosi, who served on the House Intelligence Committee for a decade and continues to serve in an ex-officio capacity, did not say on CNN what evidence she had to back up her claim.

When The Hill reached out to Pelosi’s office about her comments, a spokesperson for Pelosi reiterated that the former Speaker believes in a right to peacefully protest but suggested she wants to still see an investigation.

“As Speaker Pelosi said on CNN, we have to focus on stopping the suffering in Gaza, and she will continue demanding that all hostages be freed now,” the spokesperson said. “Speaker Pelosi has always supported and defended the right of all Americans to make their views known through peaceful protest.”

“Informed by three decades on the House Intelligence Committee, 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,” the spokesperson added.

The Hill has reached out to Pelosi’s office for additional comment on CAIR’s statement.

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