House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had just concluded her weekly news conference Thursday and was about to exit the room when a reporter shouted out a question.
“Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?” James Rosen, a reporter for Sinclair Broadcast Group, called out from a seat in the front row.
Most times, Pelosi ignores questions shouted at her in the hallways and briefing rooms of the Capitol.
But Rosen’s query appeared to strike a nerve with Pelosi, who stopped in her tracks, turned to face the reporter and delivered an extraordinary rebuttal.
“I don’t hate anybody,” Pelosi said sternly, pointing her finger at Rosen, a reporter she has dismissed as “Mr. Republican Talking Points.” Pelosi then referenced her Catholic upbringing and told Rosen, “Don’t accuse me.”
“I did not accuse you,” the reporter shot back. “I asked a question.”
As the impeachment fight ramps up, President Donald Trump and Republicans have increasingly made the argument that Democrats are pursuing their inquiry simply because they “hate” the president.
Rosen noted that Rep. Douglas Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, argued during Wednesday’s hearing on impeachment that Democrats are seeking to remove Trump simply out of personal animus toward him.
“I think it’s an important point,” Rosen added.
Pelosi then returned to the lectern and elaborated on her thoughts about Trump.
The president is a “coward” when it comes to addressing gun violence, “cruel” in his policy toward young people who were brought illegally to the United States as children and “in denial” about the climate crisis, she argued.
“However, that’s about the election,” Pelosi said, adding that impeachment “is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president’s violation of his oath of office.”
She then said she was offended by the suggestion that she hates anyone.
“As a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me,” she said. “I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love, and [I] always pray for the president, and I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So, don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
With that, Pelosi left the lectern and exited the room, as photojournalists’ cameras clicked away.
The exchange appeared to do little to change Republicans’ messaging on the matter.
Minutes after Pelosi’s news conference concluded, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., sent out a tweet in which he declared, “Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats are clearly are blinded by their hate for the President.”
Later Thursday morning, at his weekly news conference, McCarthy said he takes Pelosi “at her word” that she doesn’t hate Trump, but “if she paused for a moment, if she looked at just the facts, she would not have made that determination” about impeachment.
Pressed again on whether he believes Pelosi “hates” Trump, though, McCarthy appeared to backtrack.
“I think I have a hard time believing her,” he said.
The president, meanwhile, responded to Pelosi’s comments by claiming in a tweet that the speaker just had “a nervous fit.”
“She hates that we will soon have 182 great new judges and sooo much more. Stock Market and employment records. She says she ‘prays for the President.’ I don’t believe her, not even close. Help the homeless in your district Nancy. USMCA?” Trump tweeted, referring to the United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.