Pelosi says she's done talking about fight with 'Squad'

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday said she was done talking in public about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level McCarthy laments distractions from far-right members MORE and the tensions roiling her caucus after the New York lawmaker criticized her in an interview with The Washington Post.

Pelosi at her weekly press conference said she'd said what she wanted to say at a closed-door caucus meeting on Wednesday and refused to engage much with reporters asking her about the fight that has dominated the week in Congress.

And she shrugged off any offense that Ocasio-Cortez or the three other members of the so-called progressive freshman "Squad" might have taken from her remarks.

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"They took offense because I addressed, at the request of my members, an offensive tweet that came out of one of the members' offices that referenced our Blue Dogs and our New Dems essentially as segregationists," Pelosi said. "Our members took offense at that. I addressed that. How they're interpreting and carrying it to another place is up to them."

"But I'm not going to be discussing it any further," Pelosi said. "I said what I'm going to say."

The tweet Pelosi referred to was sent last month by Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, and has since been deleted.

It described the centrist Democrats as "new Southern Democrats" that "certainly seem hell bent to do black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s."

Pelosi on Thursday said the tweet offended a number of Democrats, and that she had to respond to it.

Tensions between Pelosi and liberals in the caucus have been swirling for days. They have centered on Ocasio-Cortez and three of her closest allies, Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Omar to accept award Saturday as American Muslim Public Servant of 2021 GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level MORE (D-Minn.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibPelosi: Democrats can't allow 'indecent' Boebert comments to stand Omar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats September video shows Boebert made earlier comments suggesting Omar was a terrorist MORE (D-Mich.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyMcCarthy faces headaches from far-right House GOP House progressives urge Garland to intervene in ex-environmental lawyer Steven Donziger's case GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE (D-Mass.). All four are freshmen and women of color known as the "Squad."

After Pelosi scolded the caucus at Wednesday morning's closed-door meeting, saying they should keep criticisms of one another out of public, Ocasio-Cortez in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday night accused Pelosi of singling out women of color for criticism.

“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the interview. “But the persistent singling out ... it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful ... the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”

Members were buzzing about those remarks throughout the day on Thursday, and Pelosi was asked about them twice at her weekly press conference. 

She said her remarks the day before, criticizing the tweet, had been well-received from the full Democratic caucus, and that she saw the group's diversity as a strength. 
 
"What I said in the caucus yesterday got an overwhelming response from my members because they know what the facts are and what we're responding to. We respect the value of every member of our caucus. The diversity of it all is a wonderful thing. Diversity is our strength. Unity is our power," Pelosi said.
 
In her comments to the Post, Ocasio-Cortez also said Pelosi's most recent shots at the "Squad" in an interview with The New York Times felt like part of a pattern.

Most recently, Pelosi had told the New York Times in a column last week that the four freshmen had limited influence given that they were the only ones to vote against House Democrats' bill last month to provide resources for agencies handling the flow of migrants at the border. 

“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.”

Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDemocratic caucus chairs call for Boebert committee assignment removal Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season 91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill MORE (D-Wash.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, expressed sympathy toward Ocasio-Cortez, saying that she has also felt targeted as as a woman of color in public life.

"I can tell you that it happens all the time. It isn't usually from just one person. The system is geared in that way," Jayapal said. 

Jayapal said that she and her fellow Progressive Caucus co-chair, Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanWith Build Back Better, Dems aim to correct messaging missteps Dems brace for score on massive Biden bill House passes trillion infrastructure bill, advances social spending plan MORE (D-Wis.), are requesting a meeting with Pelosi to try to smooth things over with progressives. The meeting has not yet been scheduled.

"I think it's just important that we clear this," Jayapal said. "Mark Pocan and I have asked for a meeting with her not just to talk about this, but to talk about the general relationship of the progressives to the Democratic caucus."

But other progressive Democrats sided with Pelosi.

"I think it's really not accurate to call them the 'squad,'" said Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyModerate Democrats press for score before vote on Biden package Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal MORE (D-Ill.). "It's not like they, you know, they see themselves as a squad and get together and say, 'Now, what's our next move?'"

Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday told CNN's Manu Raju that she did not think Pelosi had any racial animus.

A senior Democratic aide associated with the Blue Dog Coalition pushed back against Ocasio-Cortez's comments about Pelosi on Thursday.

"Let's not forget the fact that Rep. Ocasio Cortez's chief of staff called a group of members racist. This is a group of members led by an immigrant woman of color, and this group includes several other people of color, including two black men who actually experienced the segregated South," the aide said.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine Senate eyes plan B amid defense bill standoff On The Money — Congress races to keep the lights on MORE (D-Md.), who like Pelosi called for unity during Wednesday's caucus meeting, similarly declined to respond to Ocasio-Cortez's comments to the Post.

"I don't really want to get into this back and forth. I would hope it would stop," Hoyer told reporters on Thursday.

Updated: 6:05 p.m.