Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss the Congressional response to the killing of George Floyd and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Joe Scarborough. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi joins us now. Madam Speaker, thank you for being with us.
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning.
Joe Scarborough. It’s interesting, everyone from Pat Robertson to several Republican Senators to even the Pope expressing concerns about how things are being handled in the United States right now. Talk about that scene, if you will, where the President had peaceful demonstrators cleared and attacked and gassed, and members of the press beaten, so he could go hold up a Bible at a photo-op.
Speaker Pelosi. Well it shows the contradiction and inconsistency. If you're going to hold up a Bible and stand in front of a church your message should be consistent with that Bible and those values and, of course, it was not.
His Holiness, the Pope, has spoken out against – in support of the protestors and rejecting violence, as we all do. But, also, I was very proud of the Archbishop of Washington D.C., who said – just was flabbergasted at the thought that a religious institution would allow itself to be used, as was the shrine to St. Paul, John Paul, yesterday. His statement was very strong.
So, again, America is a kind nation. America's heart is full of love. Many people are oriented toward religion, and faith-based organizations play a very strong role in our life. But we have to be consistent. We have to act upon our values. And what happened the other night was an exploitation of the good feelings of the American people who associate themselves with the Bible and with the church, but not in any way in terms of his actions.
My daughter, Alexandra, a filmmaker journalist, was there that night and she called me and she said, ‘Mom, you wouldn't even believe it. These people were demonstrating peacefully and, all of a sudden, this barrage of security came through, using clubs to beat people and these explosive – little bullets that explode into stuff that burns your eyes.’ Maybe they didn't have tear gas, I don't know, but they had the elements of it for peaceful demonstrators to make way, make way for the President to walk through. What is this, a banana republic?
Joe Scarborough. You know the polls that have come out recently have shown an overwhelming majority of Americans support those who are marching and protesting, and the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the President's reaction to this.
Are you hopeful, even though it's so late to still hold out hope, but are you hopeful that perhaps some of the President’s natural allies may start speaking out against him and encouraging him to be a more unifying force in the middle of this extraordinary moment, as Admiral Mullen said yesterday, at this ‘inflection point in American history?’
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you would know better than I what would go on in the minds of the Republicans on the other side of the aisle. So far they have given the President carte blanche, but they do represent their own people and when they hear from them, I think that we would get a different reaction from them.
I salute Admiral Mullen for his courage in coming out and saying what he did, speaking truth. President George W. Bush had, speaking for himself and Laura Bush, had a beautiful statement yesterday that I wish everyone would read.
But, as far as the Republicans here are concerned, let's hope that whatever they're thinking, they would be voting in support of some of the initiatives that now we should be paving the way for. They’ve all been in the hopper for a while, whether we are talking about qualified immunity so that you cannot – prosecute a police officer for breaking the law, whether it's ending racial profiling, whether it's issues that relate to choke holds and the rest, whether – the list goes on, that have been there. And, hopefully as part of the comprehensive package, we can get that done.
At the same time, I just want to be sure that people know there are plenty of things that relate to justice. We certainly want to honor what happened to George Floyd, so so tragic and so sad. But, at the same time, it’s a just an explosion of so much else that is out there, a tinderbox in terms of economic injustice, social injustice, environmental injustice, the list goes on.
And many of those issues are addressed in The Heroes Act when we talk about health injustice, when we’re talking about how to address how the COVID-19 is affecting people of color in a disproportionate way. Whether we're talking about how we can help people at this difficult economic time; whether we’re talking about issues that relate to food and rent and the rest at this difficult time, for all Americans, including people of color in our country. But then, if we go on from that to the infrastructure legislation that we're – that we’ve had ready, we'll talk about environmental injustice as well. And, as you know, many people are predisposed to the coronavirus because of respiratory dispositions that they have from living in places where environmental injustice prevails.
So we have – we’re ready. Our Black Caucus, we’re taking our lead from them on so many of these issues as we have along the way. Any bill that's leaving the station they're on: whether it's a funding bill, and we talk about historical black colleges and universities; whether we're talking about what Mr. Clyburn, who you’ll have on shortly, we’ll have 10-20-30, his initiative to make sure that the resources that we spend are spent in areas that have been underserved in the past. As I say, the list goes on.
And I'm very proud that so many of our Members have taken the initiative right in the here and now, in terms of their committees. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, is calling upon the Secret Service to explain, for them to come forward and brief on their role in all of this. Adam Smith of Washington State, the Chair of the Armed Services Committee, calling forth General Milley and the Secretary of Defense, Esper, to come in to explain what they're talking about in terms of military force in our country.
Members of the Black Caucus have different pieces of legislation: the Commission on Truth from Barbara Lee; the Commission on the Status – Social Status of young – of Black Men and Boys, Frederica Wilson; the list goes on.
So, we'll be intense, proactive and, again, because the American people have identified with all of these injustices, we believe, at long last, we may have some success in the United States Senate with it.
Willie Geist. Good morning, Speaker Pelosi. It’s Willie Geist.
Speaker Pelosi. Hi, Willie.
Willie Geist. It’s good to see you on the show this morning. There were protests last night in your district in San Francisco, largely peaceful protests. As we have heard again this morning and from activists and protestors over the last nine days, these protests across the country from San Francisco to where you are now in Washington are, yes, about the death of George Floyd, but also about so much more and everything that underlies the death of George Floyd. So, I am curious, Madam Speaker, what you hear in the voices of those protestors. What are they saying to your ear?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, first of all, it's heartwarming to see so many people turn out peacefully and, again, the inflection point, this pivotal point, this moment, this moment where people see real opportunity. People turn out when they have hope that they can – that their presence can make a difference and that their voices will be heard. And what we hear, to your question, is that there's real opportunity for change, for people to understand that there's certain fundamentals that have to happen in terms of respect, respect and dignity of it all.
I had the privilege of going to Ghana last summer, which was the 400th anniversary of the first slaves coming to America. I was – participated under the leadership of Karen Bass, the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. And it was so stunning. I have been there before, but on the 400th anniversary, fraught with meaning in terms of what that meant to the United States. These people, kidnapped, put into the dungeons under horrible conditions. If they survive that, put on a death ship to come to the United States. If they survive that, to be sold into slavery for a couple of hundred years. All of that injustice piling up and then, of course, everything that happened after that, Jim Crow and the rest.
So, we have some opportunity now. I see every crisis, every challenge as an opportunity. An opportunity now to address some of those grievances. And what is interesting about those crowds is they're largely white. I think that that – well, my district, we have such beautiful diversity, every gathering is beautifully diverse. But, across the country, it's bringing people together, community with unity. And hopefully that gives us a stronger chance in the United States Senate to get some of this legislation passed and sent on to the President. And to do so, and not in an accusatorial way and not in an unforgiving way, but in a reaching out. Because people out there, they really want people to come together. That's what I hear them saying. In addition to wanting change, they want it to happen in a way that unifies, not divides, America.
Willie Geist. Do you have concerns, Speaker Pelosi, you were mentioning before the coronavirus, which is very much still with us. Obviously, it’s been overshadowed to some extent over the last nine days in the wake of the death of George Floyd and everything that’s come since then. Are you concerned about the large gatherings of people not wearing masks and what impact that may have on the public health?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, I am. I am indeed concerned about that because it is true that wearing a mask and social distancing are very important to stopping the spread. It is frightening, actually. That's why we're hoping that very soon we can have the Senate take up the Heroes bill, which very much addresses the disparity in the deaths resulting from the coronavirus among people of color and that, again, people – the social distancing has a purpose and the masking having – wearing masks has a purpose and when people ignore that, we can bring terrible things home to our children or to our seniors who may be living with us, being one myself. But it is, it’s very dangerous.
But, again, people are always optimistic and hopeful that they’re invincible, that something is not going to happen to them, but I am very, very concerned. In a couple of weeks, we will see, sadly, hopefully not, but sadly that, of course, there will be an increased number. All the more reason for us to pass the legislation.
We don’t have a vaccine right now. We don’t even have a cure that is available to so many people. But we do have what has worked in other countries: testing, tracing, treatment and social distancing. And that makes a tremendous difference. And as people go out there, I hope that they know that they're taking a risk, as well as bringing home – but there's been some good social distancing among some of the crowds and on TV, they all look like they are very close together. I think some of them are probably practicing social distancing. Let us hope so.
Joe Scarborough. Madam Speaker, Mika couldn't be with us this hour and she's sorry to have missed you, but she asked people yesterday to text her questions that they might have for you. And I wanted to read one off. And a question is a general question, followed by a specific one. Will the House be taking any steps to protect the republic from the authoritarian actions by the commander in chief and will there be legislation that attempts to ban the choke hold?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Joe Scarborough. The sort of choke hold that killed George Floyd?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes to both. Mr. Hakeem Jeffries has legislation about the choke hold. Specifically, the array of legislation includes any kind of use of violence that stops the flow of blood to the brain to be specific, yes.
And then in terms of the first part of it, what is interesting about that question about the use of military, the use of military in our country. When you say military, people sometimes think that you mean the reserves, state – keeping order and the rest. And so people might say, ‘Well, I'm all for that.’ Yeah, if that’s necessary to keep order. But the use of the active military, it’s a completely different subject. And that's almost a constitutional question.
Let me just say that when the President was on the call with the governors and he was saying, ‘I have General Milley here, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and he’s a warrior always and he always wins and he’s ready to go,’ and all that. That was so out of place for the President of the United States. But once again, let's not go there.
But the fact is, General Milley has no – he’s not in the chain of command. He's an advisor to the President, advisor to the Secretary of Defense, advisor to policymakers, but he is not in the chain of command. He cannot order anyone to do anything. So, that was a complete, total misrepresentation, once again, on the part of the President as to how things would work. I think he wanted to show the proximity to the commander in chief, but we really have to be very cautious.
That's why I'm so glad that Adam Smith the Chair – Chairman Adam Smith of Washington State, the Chair of the Armed Services Committee has called for General Milley and the Secretary of Defense to come before the committee to have this discussion. This is very important for a democracy. This is very important to the American people, and there has to be a distinction between keeping order on the state, the reserves etcetera versus the use of the military that the President seems to be waving out there.
It’s – well, let us pray. I always say, as I said yesterday, let us pray. Let us be prayerful about the greatness of America that will overcome some of the challenge we're facing right now. We all support peaceful demonstrations. I am an organizer. You know, I was chair of the party for years before I came to Congress, so I know that when you have a big event you know that they're going to be exploiters. Come in, break windows and the rest, because that's what they do. It's unfortunate because then everyone thinks well – no, others can be painted with that brush unfairly.
So we, again, it is not honoring the memory of George Floyd, as his brother so eloquently said. And hasn't the family just been so beautiful and so inspiring to all of us to mourn the loss of their loved one, who was killed so unnecessarily, whose name is making the difference? It's pivotal in terms of making differences and making the change, and the people all over the world are turning out in his name.
But as you said earlier, the issue is larger. It's larger than the one incident because that was not one incident. It was part of a pattern and then part of a larger set of injustices that exist in our country that we must address and that much of it is contained in The Heroes Act that we can do right away in helping in terms of health, the lives, the livelihood and the life of our democracy.
Joe Scarborough. And finally, I know that you’re a person of great faith. We’ve talked about it, of course, off TV a good bit, and we’ve talked about it a good bit on. So, talk about your faith, if you will, in America that we are going to get through this. That you look at the numbers – the poll numbers during the coronavirus outbreak, actually, most Americans were responsible. Most Americans, Republican, Democrat, Independent alike, good people that protected their families, sheltered in place, bent the curve. And we see the same thing with numbers that have come out: an overwhelming majority of Americans support the protestors in the street. Talk about, talk about how Americans should not be in despair, that Americans should look at these numbers and see that we really are a lot more united than perhaps some politicians would want us to be, and that includes Republicans, Independents and Democrats that you work with every day.
Speaker Pelosi. That’s right. Well, I appreciate your focus on faith, because I do believe – you know, sometimes people say to me, ‘Where is hope? Where can I go find hope?’ And I say hope is sitting there where it always has been, right between faith and charity; faith, hope and charity. Faith gives people hope in the goodness of others, and so, it's very important.
Now, faith is a gift, not everyone has it. Sometimes people say to me, ‘How come you believe this or that.’ I say, ‘Well, I have the gift of faith.’ And that gift of faith tells us that we're all God's children, that we're made in the image and likeness of God, and there's a spark of divinity in every person that we have to respect, including in ourselves that we have to act upon.
So, again, so many things that have happened in our country, whether it’s the civil rights movement, whether it’s living through slavery and the rest of that, have depended on faith as giving them hope, because of love that they are hopeful is out there. And that is, I think, what people want to see. They don’t want the negativity. They want something positive about how we go forward together.
Now, not everybody is of the same mind, and we have to be respectful of those differences of opinion. But we have the values. We have to act upon them. And the one thing that I missed through all this, of course, is hugging my grandchildren, but also going to church because I just love going to church. And when Father said, ‘You don't have to come. We don’t want you to come,’ because this was early on. I said, ‘Well, no, I want to come. This is such an inspiration for all of us.’
So, we – whatever faith people have, that doesn't – you know – I happen to be a devout, practicing Catholic. Whatever their faith, it is predicated on the goodness of people, and that's something that we believe in and that gives us hope.
Joe Scarborough. Alright, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Thank you so much. We greatly appreciate you being here.
Speaker Pelosi. My best to Mika.
Joe Scarborough. Alright, thank you so much, and God bless you.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you.