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Pelosi accuses some protesters demanding Gaza cease-fire of having ties to Russia

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Sunday suggested that some protesters calling for a cease-fire in Gaza could be linked to Russia and urged the FBI to investigate.

In an interview with anchor Dana Bash on CNN's State of the Union, the former House speaker said, without offering evidence, that she believed some protesters are connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"For them to call for a cease-fire is Mr. Putin's message," she said. "Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see. Same thing with Ukraine. It's about Putin's message. I think some of these protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia. And I say that having looked at this for a long time now, as you know."

Asked for clarification on whether she thought some anti-war protesters were plants, Pelosi said: "I don't think they're plants. I think some financing should be investigated. And I want to ask the FBI to investigate that."

The congresswoman's comments came in response to questions about whether she was concerned about challenges to organize Democrats given voters' anger over President Biden's support for Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza and his refusal to call for a cease-fire.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, Israeli attacks have killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, most of whom are women and children, and displaced about 85% of people in the territory. Hamas militants killed some 1,200 people in Israel in the Oct. 7 attack and seized some 250 hostages, about 100 of whom are still alive and being held, according to Israeli officials.

"What we have to do is try to stop the suffering and gossip," Pelosi said. "This is women and children. People don't have a place to go. So let's address that."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy organization, condemned Pelosi's comments as "unsubstantiated smears" that the group said echoes messaging meant to dehumanize Palestinian people.

"We are deeply disturbed by Former House Speaker Pelosi's comments," CAIR's national executive director Nihad Awad said in a statement. "Rep. Pelosi's claim that some of the Americans protesting for a Gaza ceasefire are working with Vladmir Putin sounds delusional and her call for the FBI to investigate those protesters without any evidence is downright authoritarian."

In response to NPR's request for comment, a spokesperson for Rep. Pelosi stood by her comments, adding that Pelosi has always supported the right of Americans to express their views through peaceful protest.

"As Speaker Pelosi said on CNN, we have to focus on stopping the suffering in Gaza, and she will continue demanding that all hostages be freed now," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "Informed by three decades on the House Intelligence Committee, Speaker Pelosi is acutely aware of how foreign adversaries meddle in American politics to sow division and impact our elections, and she wants to see further investigation ahead of the 2024 election."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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