"Pelosi Chokes,I had a dream !"
In a rare display of public emotion, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) choked up Thursday morning recalling the anti-gay rhetoric in the late 1970s in San Francisco, which culminated in the assassinations of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay S.F. Board of Supervisors member, and Mayor George Moscone.
Pelosi, responding to a question about whether anti-government rhetoric posed a threat of domestic violence, said that protesters on all sides had the right to voice their opposition to legislative proposals in a heated fashion. But then Pelosi -- whose weekly press conferences are legendary for their highly scripted nature and her rote recitation of Democratic message points -- paused and took a deep breath as she recounted the tone of some protests in her hometown.
"I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco," she said, a reference to the antigay laws and protests as that city became the flashpoint of the civil rights movement for gays and lesbians. "It created an environment in which violence took place."
Pelosi appeared to fight back tears, staring down at the podium.
Pelosi did not say that such an environment had returned thanks to the conservative activists who have been holding rallies in opposition to President Obama's health-care reform proposals, as well as the government takeover of troubled firms in the financial and the auto industries. But she added that protesters on all sides had to "take responsibility" for their words and actions.
Pelosi, a Baltimore native, moved to San Francisco in the late 1960s with her husband, Paul, a native of the city, and she became active in Democratic Party politics. By 1977 -- as Milk was on the verge of winning his Board of Supervisors seat -- Pelosi became the state's Democratic chairman for Northern California. On Nov. 27, 1978, Milk and Moscone were assassinated by former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.