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Pelosi likens healthcare protests to anti-gay rhetoric

The House speaker says some of the language being used reminds her of 1970s San Francisco, when anger led to assassinations. A Republican colleague denounces her comparison.

September 18, 2009|Washington Post

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said Thursday that she worries that the protests over President Obama's healthcare legislation may resemble the anti-gay rhetoric of the late 1970s in San Francisco, which culminated in the assassination of two of her hometown's political leaders.

Pelosi, responding to a question about anti-Obama sentiment, said partisans on all sides have the right to voice their opinions. She paused, then added: "I have concerns about some of the language that is being used, because I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco. This kind of rhetoric was very frightening, and it created a climate in which violence took place."

The usually stoic speaker appeared to fight back tears as she recalled the 1978 killings of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay member of the city's Board of Supervisors, and Mayor George Moscone by Dan White, who was also on the board.

Pelosi said she did not think the debate had crossed into dangerous territory but warned that sometimes the "ears that it is falling on are not as balanced as the person making the statement."

Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, rejected her statement.

"The speaker is now likening genuine opposition to assassination," he said. "Such insulting rhetoric not only undermines the credibility of her office, but it underscores the desperate attempt by her party to divert attention away from a failing agenda."

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