Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she thinks antiwar protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza are somehow connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and she would like the FBI to investigate.
In a televised interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning, Pelosi was asked if she feared that President Joe Biden would lose the electoral support of young voters at the polls over his stance on the war in Gaza. Biden has been vocal in his support for Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the past four months of military operations in the Gaza Strip, which have led to the deaths of more than 26,000 Palestinians.
“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,” Pelosi said. “I think some of these protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia.”
Asked if she thought that some pro-Palestinian protesters in the U.S. 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 suggestions about foreign influence on American ceasefire protesters drew immediate outrage from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the primary civil rights advocacy group for Muslims in the U.S.
Its president, Nihad Awad, condemned her remarks as unfounded anti-democratic in a press release.
“Rep. Pelosi’s claim that some of the Americans protesting for a Gaza ceasefire are working with Vladmir Putin sounds delusional and her call for the FBI to investigate those protesters without any evidence is downright authoritarian,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Advocacy groups have often voiced concern over First Amendment violations since October, likening suppression of pro-Palestinian speech to a 21st century version of Mccarthyism.
Awad also pointed out recent polls which suggest a majority of Democratic voters support a ceasefire, while the majority of their congressional representatives do not.
“Instead of baselessly smearing those Americans as Russian collaborators,” he wrote, “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.”