House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood her ground Thursday in response to New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claiming the speaker has been disrespectful to several minority lawmakers, saying she has the backing of her caucus and defending her handling of the rabble-rousing freshman 'squad' that Ocasio-Cortez leads.
Notably, Pelosi all but confirmed that a warning she delivered to rank-and-file lawmakers a day earlier about using social media for attacks on fellow Democrats was prompted by Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff.
Asked about her ongoing spat with the New York lawmaker, Pelosi acknowledged how she recently addressed -- “at the request of my members” -- an “offensive tweet that came out of one of the member's offices” that compared centrist Democrats to segregationists. That tweet was authored and then deleted by Ocasio-Cortez’ chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti.
“Our members took offense at that,” Pelosi said, claiming her comments received a positive response. “I addressed that.”
Ocasio-Cortez has since accused Pelosi of being “disrespectful” to several “newly elected women of color.” Pelosi repeatedly told reporters Thursday she wasn’t going to say anything else on the subject, but said she supports diversity in the caucus.
“I've said what I'm going to say…What I said in the caucus yesterday had an overwhelming response from my members. Because they know what the facts are and what we are responding to. We respect the value of every member of our caucus. The diversity of it all is a wonderful thing. Diversity is our strength. Unity is our power,” she said.
This is hardly the first time Pelosi has had to quell tensions, even revolt, inside the caucus -- having brushed back a challenge to her leadership post from Rep. Tim Ryan following the 2016 election.
Pelosi has worked to keep the Democratic caucus in line, specifically four newly elected outspoken progressives: Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.
However, a feud between Pelosi and the quartet escalated after Congress recently passed a border funding bill that the four young Democrats opposed. In an interview last weekend, Pelosi told the New York Times: "All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world, but they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got."
The spat got nastier after Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the "persistent singling out" by the speaker may be more than "outright disrespectful."
"When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
She added: “But the persistent singling out . . . it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful . . . the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”
In an earlier interview with The New Yorker Radio Hour, Ocasio-Cortez accused Congress of using women and minorities as "bargaining chips."
"When it comes to women of color in Congress, particularly the freshman, it's that we both have encountered and represent communities that have been auctioned off and negotiated off for the last 20 years. And we're over it," Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday.
"We see in these negotiations all the time--- it's like fighting for black communities or policies that help women. They're bargaining chips. And they're the first chips that are reached for in any legislative negotiations."
On Wednesday, Pelosi delivered her stern message to the caucus, telling House Democrats: "You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just okay."
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.