Nancy Pelosi's stunningly tone-deaf quote on George Floyd

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) thanked George Floyd "for sacrificing your life for justice" after Derek Chauvin was convicted.

Posted: Apr 22, 2021 5:11 AM
Updated: Apr 22, 2021 5:11 AM

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had months (and months) to ponder what she would say if and when former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder of George Floyd. Which makes what she did say on Wednesday -- in the immediate aftermath of the Chauvin verdict -- all the more baffling.

"Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice," Pelosi said at an event with the Congressional Black Caucus shortly after the verdict. "For being there to call out to your mom, how heartbreaking was that," Pelosi said during the news conference. "And because of you ... your name will always be synonymous with justice."

Clearly, this is a poorly constructed line. Floyd didn't want to "sacrifice" his life. Pelosi's comment seems to bizarrely suggest that Floyd had some choice in the situation, when in actuality he had zero say or control over whether a police stop would end in his death.

While Floyd's death sparked a national movement aimed at examining and reforming race and policing, the best outcome for Floyd and his family would be that he was still alive. That Chauvin hadn't kneeled on his neck for nine-plus minutes as Floyd said, repeatedly, "I can't breathe."

And while the verdict reached Tuesday gives his family some sort of closure after such a heartbreaking and terrible year-long ordeal, racial profiling by police remains a huge and unacceptable injustice in this country.

The utter tone-deafness of Pelosi's comments -- her first since the verdict was announced! -- drew immediate reaction, especially on social media, where people wondered what the heck she was talking about.

"You have to imagine Pelosi tried that line out on people around her earlier and they nodded along as if it wasn't one of the most offensive things they'd ever heard," tweeted Ryan Grim, the DC bureau chief of The Intercept.

Pelosi sought to clean up the mess she had made. She took to Twitter, writing this:

"George Floyd should be alive today. His family's calls for justice for his murder were heard around the world. He did not die in vain. We must make sure other families don't suffer the same racism, violence & pain, and we must enact the George Floyd #JusticeInPolicing Act."

Which, well, yeah. But why didn't you say that -- or anything close to that -- the first time around?

Look. Moments like this -- when the country is literally on a knife's edge waiting for a verdict on a cop's role in the death of a Black man -- are deeply fraught for any public figure. Everyone is watching. Tensions are high. Emotions are higher. Saying the wrong thing -- or trying to say the right thing and still saying the wrong thing -- is going to get lots and lots of attention.

Speaking of trying to say the right thing and still saying the wrong thing: Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis took responsibility for tweeting, "I CAN BREATHE" following the verdict from the team's official account. Davis said he was unaware that the phrase was one used by people supporting the police in the aftermath of the death of Eric Garner in 2014 at the hands of the police. He said that he meant the tweet as supportive of Floyd's family, citing Floyd's brother who, after the verdict, said that "today, we are able to breathe again." Said Davis: "If I offended the family, then I'm deeply, deeply disappointed."

And Pelosi's comments -- while WAY off -- should not eclipse the fact that she is uniquely situated to push legislative measures to work to ensure that deaths like Floyd's never happen again. Or that she has a long record of working for racial justice in Congress and the country.

But what she said is still very much a head-scratcher. Especially when you consider that these were, I assume, carefully considered comments during a massive cultural moment. That no one in her orbit said, "Madam Speaker, maybe the whole George-Floyd-as-noble-sacrifice theme isn't the way to go," should raise a little bit of an alarm. Ditto the fact that Pelosi herself, one of the most skilled and accomplished politicians of her generation, didn't hear just how bad it sounded herself.

Pelosi's comments will be a historical footnote to the broader story of Floyd's death -- and what it meant for the country. But that fact doesn't excuse her from coming off so tin-eared in such a big moment.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319948

Reported Deaths: 7371
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22285267
Hinds20719421
Harrison18431317
Rankin13901282
Jackson13718248
Madison10263224
Lee10059176
Jones8467167
Forrest7832153
Lauderdale7261242
Lowndes6517150
Lamar635188
Lafayette6313121
Washington5425137
Bolivar4841133
Panola4670110
Oktibbeha466198
Pearl River4605147
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425873
Monroe4157135
Union415777
Neshoba4063179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386987
Leflore3515125
Tate342486
Sunflower339491
Pike3371111
Alcorn327272
Scott320374
Yazoo314171
Adams308086
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298784
Simpson298589
Tippah291968
Prentiss284161
Leake272074
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264642
Grenada264087
George252251
Newton248663
Tishomingo231868
Winston230181
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190474
Stone188433
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164134
Walthall135347
Greene131834
Lawrence131124
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127238
Amite126242
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108234
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548657

Reported Deaths: 11306
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810031566
Mobile42105831
Madison35690525
Tuscaloosa26173458
Shelby25607254
Montgomery25081614
Baldwin21868314
Lee16278176
Calhoun14719327
Morgan14629285
Etowah14175364
Marshall12453230
Houston10781287
Elmore10293214
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10162251
Cullman9952201
Lauderdale9603250
DeKalb8972190
Talladega8460184
Walker7338280
Autauga7241113
Blount6945139
Jackson6932113
Colbert6413140
Coffee5635127
Dale4928116
Russell454841
Chilton4476116
Franklin431382
Covington4275122
Tallapoosa4138155
Escambia401680
Chambers3728124
Dallas3607158
Clarke353061
Marion3240107
Pike314378
Lawrence3133100
Winston283472
Bibb268564
Geneva257981
Marengo250565
Pickens236962
Barbour234559
Hale227278
Butler224271
Fayette218862
Henry194543
Randolph187544
Cherokee187345
Monroe180041
Washington170539
Macon163051
Clay160059
Crenshaw155957
Cleburne153444
Lamar146837
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124342
Conecuh113630
Coosa111729
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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