Nancy Pelosi Fires Back at Luke Russert’s Ageist and Sexist Question

4 years ago

While most pundits were making predictions about whether or not Rep. Nancy Pelosi would announce she is stepping up once again as House Minority Leader, NBC reporter Luke Russert was apparently practicing his one liners.

At the 7 a.m. press conference where the Congressional veteran announced that she does indeed want to lead the House Democrats, Russert – the son of the late Meet the Press host Tim Russert – basically asked why the old people don’t just hurry up and retire?

Russert: “You’re just going to stay on, prohibits the party from having a younger leadership, hurts the party in the long run. What’s your response?”

The other Congressional women standing with Pelosi booed and cried, “Discrimination!” while Pelosi just brushed him off by yelling “Next!” before adding her own barb.

Pelosi: “You always ask that question except to Mitch McConnell.”

Russert doesn’t back down, insisting that his question applies to the male Congressional representatives who are over 70 as well, and Pelosi launches into a (well-deserved) tirade, beginning with “Let’s for a moment honor that as a legitimate question, although it’s quite offense, although you don’t realize that.”

There are many other hard-hitting questions Russert could have asked, if he wanted to prove that he's a tough reporter that can light a little fire under the feet of a veteran House leader. Like, questions about Pelosi's actual policies or what she could accomplish differently this time around. But maybe Russert knows all too well that those questions are not nearly sexy enough to get attention at a crowded press conference.

Then, Pelosi lays open the real crux of the matter for women in politics. It all goes back to the whole working mom, stay-at-home mom dilemma.

“I came to Congress when my youngest child, Alexandra was a senior in high school on her way to college. I knew that my male collegues had come when they were younger – when they were 30, so they had a jump on me.”

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

The 72-year old Pelosi, who has served in Congress since 1987, also talked about her efforts to recruit more younger women to Capitol Hill, something she also emphasized when I met up with her during a press conference with bloggers at the Democratic National Convention. And when this kind of treatment from a network reporter – presumably a job which is not just handed out to anybody – what does that say about the atmosphere for up and coming women (of either party) entering politics?

All of Pelosi’s patient explaining seemed lost on Luke Russert who defended his line of questioning on Twitter:

Other commenters on Twitter weren’t so charitable toward Russert.

What do you think about Luke Russert’s question or Nancy Pelosi’s answers? Seems like the girl’s got plenty of game left in her.

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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