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Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters on January 27, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing criticism after suggesting that some pro-Palestinian protesters had “ties to Russia.”
“We have to think about what we are doing and we have to try to stop the suffering in Gaza … but them calling for a ceasefire is the message from Mr Putin,” she said on CNN's “State of” on Sunday. . the Union,” referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Make no mistake, this is directly related to what he would like to see.”
The comments come as pro-Palestinian protesters demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza have repeatedly disrupted President Joe Biden's events, as well as Pelosi's own recent event in Seattle.
“I think … some of these protesters are spontaneous, organic and sincere,” Pelosi said. “Some have a connection to Russia, I think. And I say that after looking at this for a long time, as you know.”
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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 8: A woman holds a sign suggesting she may now vote for Donald Trump for president as protesters march in the street to denounce the Biden administration's support of Israel , which has killed thousands of Palestinian civilians so far in the war against Hamas in Gaza, on December 8, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to attend six joint fundraisers and meetings in the Los Angeles area over the weekend. More than 17,487 Palestinians, including more than 6,600 children, have reportedly been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since the Palestinian group Hamas attacked Israel, killing about 1,200 people on October 7. Following a several-day ceasefire to exchange hostages and prisoners, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have resumed bombing and ground fighting in the southern Gaza Strip after weeks of warning people to flee there to avoid Israeli bombing in the north. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Biden's Gaza problems go far beyond mere public disruption
Asked if she thought some pro-Palestinian protests were Russian plants, the California Democrat replied: “I don't think they are plants.”
“I think some funding should be investigated,” Pelosi said, “and I would like to ask the FBI to investigate that.”
She quickly received criticism from Council on American-Islamic Relations Chairman Nihad Awad, who said the organization was “deeply disturbed” and called Pelosi's suggestion that the FBI investigate the protesters “downright authoritarian.”
“We are deeply disturbed by former House Speaker Pelosi’s comments. Representative Pelosi's claim that some of the Americans protesting for a ceasefire in Gaza are colluding with Vladimir Putin sounds delusional, and her call for the FBI to investigate these protesters without evidence is downright authoritarian,” Awad said in a statement .
“Your comments once again demonstrate the negative impact of decades of dehumanization of the Palestinian people by those who support Israeli apartheid. “Instead of baselessly denigrating these 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 against the people of Gaza.” it further in the statement.
A spokesman for Pelosi told CNN the former speaker “supported and defended” the right to peaceful protest but acknowledged a history of foreign adversaries interfering in American politics to influence elections.
“Speaker Pelosi has always supported and defended the right of all Americans to express their views through peaceful protest. Speaker Pelosi, who has served on the House Intelligence Committee for three decades, is keenly aware of how foreign adversaries meddle in American politics to sow division and influence our elections, and she wants to see further investigation before the 2024 elections.” said the speaker.
There is no evidence that Russia is linked to pro-Palestinian protests, but Russia and Russian-backed organizations are known to interfere in United States politics with the aim of sowing discord and overturning election results influence.
A report released in March 2021 by the U.S. intelligence community detailed how the Russian government interfered in the 2020 election with an influence campaign that “denigrated” Biden and “supported” former President Donald Trump, citing on a massive disinformation offensive.
Russian troll farms like the Internet Research Agency are known to use social media to spread misinformation and promote divisions in US politics by exploiting issues such as vaccination and mask mandates.
CNN's Avery Lotz, Haley Talbot and Dianne Gallagher contributed to this report.