Dozens of self-identified "black women leaders and allies" wrote a letter this week excoriating top Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer for failing to "protect" embattled Rep. Maxine Waters.
The letter's signatories, including former Democratic National Committee Chairperson Donna Brazile, the Rev. Al Sharpton and former USDA official Shirley Sherrod, called Waters "Auntie Maxine" and said she is "owed an apology."
Waters, D-Calif., has not backed down from her comments calling for people to confront members of the Trump administration at department stores and any other places where they're seen in public. President Trump responded by calling Waters "crazy" and "extraordinarily" unintelligent.
Last month, Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor that it's "not American" to call for the harassment of political opponents. And for her part, Pelosi, D-Calif., lightly rebuked Waters, saying that some responses to "Trump's daily lack of civility" have been "predictable but unacceptable."
In the letter, obtained by Politico and dated July 3, the "Black Women Leaders and Allies" charge that Schumer and Pelosi have abandoned a Democratic icon.
"We write to share our profound indignation and deep disappointment over your recent failure to protect Congresswoman Waters from unwarranted attacks from the Trump Administration and others in the GOP," the letter states. "That failure was further compounded by your decision to unfairly deride her as being ‘uncivil' and ‘un-American.'"
In a twist, the letter continues: "We call on leaders of all persuasion to practice the art of civil discourse."
The missive also represented something of a warning to the Democratic leaders.
"Much hangs in the balance this fall, with all 435 House seats and 33 Senate seats up for grabs," the letter says. "Disparaging or failing to support Congresswoman Waters is an affront to her and Black women across the country and telegraphs a message that the Democratic Party can ill afford: that it does not respect Black women’s leadership and political power and discounts the impact of Black women and millennial voters."
Waters angrily encouraged her supporters to confront Trump officials amid fierce criticism of the White House's new "zero-tolerance" policy on illegal immigrants.
Her comments came the same week White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Homeland Security Security Kirstjen Nielsen were pressured to leave restaurants by left-leaning advocates.
"Disparaging or failing to support Congresswoman Waters is an affront to her and Black women across the country."
“If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” Waters said last month, later telling MSNBC that protesters are “going to absolutely harass them.”
The letter by the black women leaders said Waters' remarks were merely a "call to action for peaceful democratic assembly and the exercise of her constitutional rights to free speech in support of defenseless immigrant children and their families."
Waters later said she was "surprised" by criticism from Democratic leaders over her statement that people should "push back" against members of the Trump administration over its immigration policy.
"One of the things I recognize, being an elected official, is in the final analysis, leadership ... will do anything that they think is necessary to protect their leadership, and so what I have to do is not focus on them," Waters told MSNBC.
Fox News' Alex Pappas and Adam Shaw contributed to this report.