Sen. Kamala D. Harris defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an interview that aired Friday, saying she has found her fellow California Democrat to be “very respectful of women of color,” an assessment at odds with comments earlier this week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
During an appearance on the New York-based radio show “The Breakfast Club,” Harris was asked about Ocasio-Cortez’s assertion in a Washington Post interview that Pelosi had been “just outright disrespectful” with “the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”
“That’s not my experience with Nancy Pelosi,” said Harris, a Democratic presidential primary hopeful. “And I’ve known her and worked with her for years. I’ve known her to be very respectful of women of color and very supportive of them.”
The question about Ocasio-Cortez’s comments followed a discussion of legislation that she and Harris have been working on together. The interview was recorded Thursday.
Tensions have flared in recent days between Pelosi and a group of four liberal female lawmakers known as “the Squad” — freshman Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ocasio-Cortez.
In an interview with the New York Times, Pelosi said that the four “didn’t have any following,” citing their lonely votes last month against a Democratic-crafted bill to address the southern border crisis. She has also made other remarks dismissing the group and their far-left proposals on the environment and health care.
And Pelosi stood up for moderates in the House Democratic caucus after Saikat Chakrabarti, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, referred to members of moderate Democratic groups in a tweet last month as “New Southern Democrats” who are “hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.”
Pelosi’s comments to the Times this week prompted Ocasio-Cortez’s accusation in The Post that Pelosi was targeting “newly elected women of color.”
Ocasio-Cortez is of Puerto Rican descent, Pressley is African American, Omar is a Somali immigrant and Tlaib is Palestinian American.
Harris is the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother.
The “Squad” won backing Thursday from some liberal allies.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she and co-chairman Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) have requested a meeting with Pelosi “to talk about the general relationship of the progressives to the Democratic caucus.”
But several other minority lawmakers said it wasn’t Pelosi who was in the wrong. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called Pelosi a “proven leader with a lot of experience and maturity” and questioned the relevance of Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks.
Mike DeBonis, Paul Kane and Rachael Bade contributed to this report.