House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Sunday on President Trump to work on “unifying the country” and not “fuel the flame” of unrest that has led to nationwide protests following the death of an unarmed black man while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn.
Pelosi said that past presidents – from both political parties – have brought “dignity to the office” and been a “unifying force” in times of crisis.
“They have seen their responsibility to be the president of the United States, to unify our country and not to fuel the flame,” she said, during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
Pelosi slammed Trump’s recent tweets about the protests as “bait” and said that the president wants to create a distraction from the root cause of the unrest.
“I think to take his bait time and time again is just a gift to him because he always wants to divert attention from what the cause of the response was,” she added.
Trump has taken criticism for a number of late-night tweets calling the protesters “thugs” and borrowing a phrase used in 1967 by Miami's police chief to warn of an aggressive police response to unrest in black neighborhoods.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Trump tweeted about the protesters. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Trump, in his tweets, borrowed a phrase once used by former Miami Police Chief Walter Headley in a 1967 speech outlining his department’s efforts to “combat young hoodlums who have taken advantage of the civil rights campaign.” In the speech, Headley said his department had been successful “because I've let the word filter down that when the looting starts, the shooting starts."
Trump on Friday walked back those comments, saying he was unaware of the origins of the phrase and saying he was misconstrued. “But I’ve heard it for a long time, as most people have. And frankly it means when there’s looting, people get shot and they die,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.