Pelosi: Democrats can't allow 'indecent' Boebert comments to stand

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) answers a question during her weekly press conference on Thursday, November 18, 2021.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) answers a question during her weekly press conference on Thursday, November 18, 2021.

As Democratic leaders weigh potential punitive action against Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) for her recent Islamophobic remarks, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Wednesday that one option is off the table: doing nothing.

"These people do not respect the House that they serve in. We have to make sure that the public understands that we do," Pelosi told House Democrats during a closed-door meeting in the basement of the Capitol.

Democratic leaders have been so far cautious in their approach to the uproar over Boebert, who drew widespread criticism in recent days after suggesting to constituents that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), one of three Muslims in Congress, poses a threat of terrorist violence. The publicity surrounding the incident sparked death threats against Omar, a Somali refugee.

Pelosi and other Democratic leaders quickly issued a statement condemning Boebert's remarks in sharp terms, but they've stopped short of taking the same disciplinary action they applied to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), both of whom were stripped of their committee assignments this year for promoting violent rhetoric and imagery against Democratic lawmakers.

Instead, Democrats are pressing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to sanction Boebert unilaterally. McCarthy has sought to ease the tensions privately but has not publicly condemned her bigoted remarks.

The silence from GOP leaders has been roundly attacked by Democrats, and even some Republicans, who are wondering what level of bigotry it would take to prompt a reprimand from the party leader.

"I'm pretty disgusted with the Republican leader for his silence, which, for me, equals complicity," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). "I mean, where the hell is Kevin McCarthy? Does he have any regard for this institution?"

Boebert has defended her remarks, noting that she had issued an apology, via Twitter, "to anyone in the Muslim community I offended." She also called Omar on Monday, ostensibly to apologize directly, but instead asked Omar to apologize "for her anti-American, antisemitic, anti-police rhetoric."

"It's disheartening to see someone who hates America serving in the United States of Representatives," Boebert said Tuesday in an interview with Laura Ingraham of Fox News.

Democrats have a different view of American values. And Pelosi is pulling no punches in accusing Boebert of hypocrisy for leaning on her own faith to attack another's.

"To see the supposed people of faith denouncing other people's faith - this just can't be an acceptance of tolerance of any - it's indecent. It's indecent," Pelosi said.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), another Muslim lawmaker who is calling for "the fullest accountability" for Boebert's remarks, said she was encouraged that Pelosi had aired her own concerns in Wednesday's meeting.

"It was discussed overall - some of the concerns about allowing that kind of rhetoric to continue without any accountability. So that's a good sign that some action will be taken," Tlaib said.

What punishment the Democrats pursue - if any - remains to be seen.

Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), Congress's third Muslim lawmaker, said Tuesday evening that he's talking with Democratic leaders about their options. And Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, suggested they could reach some decision before the end of the week - assuming GOP leaders don't act first.

"There are active discussions underway to make sure that Lauren Boebert is held accountable - particularly given the likelihood that we may not see any accountability coming from the ... other side of the aisle," Jeffries said. "But hope springs eternal, and we'll see what emerges over the next day or two."

One concern among the Democrats eyeing punitive measures for Boebert is that, in doing so, they would publicize her bigoted remarks, sparking a flood of donations from like-minded donors around the country.

"This is hard because these people are doing it for the publicity," Pelosi acknowledged Wednesday.

But a growing number of rank-and-file Democrats - including Omar, Carson and Tlaib - say the greater threat would be to sit by and do nothing.

"It's not an option to ignore it because it might help her raise money," Tlaib said Tuesday evening. "We can't be silent about it."