White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre refused Monday to condemn comments from a top progressive lawmaker who called for “balance” when condemning Hamas’ use of sexual violence against Israeli women.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said “we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinian” when asked specifically about mass rape committed by Palestinian militants, during an interview Sunday with CNN. When asked about Jayapal’s comments, Jean-Pierre reiterated that using rape as a weapon of war was “reprehensible,” but stopped short of condemning the congresswoman.
“I can only speak for the president — that’s who I can speak for,” Jean-Pierre told Fox News correspondent Jacqui Heinrich during the daily White House press briefing Monday. “We’ve been clear that what Hamas did is absolutely reprehensible, full stop. We’re going to continue to be clear about that.”
“We think rape and the use of rape — being used as a weapon — that is also reprehensible and that’s full stop and I’ll just leave it there,” she continued. “That’s speaking for the president of the United States and I think I’ve been very clear on that.”
After Jean-Pierre was pressed about Jayapal’s comments in particular, she again declined to address the congresswoman’s remarks directly.
“I just commented on it. I just laid out what we believe is unacceptable,” she added.
While the White House declined to condemn Jayapal, several Democrats blasted her on Monday. For example, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said it was “outrageous” for anyone to “both sides” of sexual violence and Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., added that it was “indecent” to downplay rape against Israeli women.
“Hamas terrorists raped Israeli women and girls. The only ‘balanced’ approach is to condemn sexual violence loudly, forcefully and without exceptions. Outrageous for anyone to ‘both sides’ sexual violence,” said Wasserman Schultz.