When it came to reacting to Nancy Pelosi warning US Olympians not to protest China's human rights abuses, there was a striking contrast today between members of the Morning Joe cast and its panelists
At least during the first segment, co-host Mika Brzezinski never commented on Pelosi's warning, other than to utter a "wow" at the end of the clip of the Speaker's remarks. And Willie Geist said that Pelosi "sounds genuinely concerned about the physical safety of these athletes." Geist claimed, "that's not a defense of it," but it sure sounded like one.
The panelists weren't so reserved.
On the one hand, Richard Haass, the mild-mannered head of the Council on Foreign Relations, prefaced his comments by saying, "I respectfully disagree" with Pelosi. But he did go on to remark, "I don't like the idea of an American official telling Americans, don't speak out against massive injustice, leave your principles at home. You're just an athlete. No!"
Even leftist Al Sharpton, while careful to get on the record that he is "usually supportive" of Pelosi, agreed with Haass and noted that he did "respectfully disagree" with her. Sharpton asked, "so we're supposed to leave our principles of protest when we check in at customs? I don't think so."
Of course, what else could professional protester Sharpton say? Protests for me, but not for thee?
Most surprising was "MSNBC Republican" and Never Trumper Elise Jordan. It's hard to remember the last time she sharply criticized a Democrat. But Jordan was scathing about the Speaker, calling her attempt to silence the Olympians, "shameful, shameful." She concluded by saying that Pelosi's warning "just blows my mind."
On Morning Joe, Richard Haass, Al Sharpton, and Elise Jordan crticizing Nancy Pelosi's warning to US Olympians not to protest Chinas' human rights abuses was sponsored in part by Liberty Mutual, Applebee's, and Walgreens.
Here's the transcript.
6:14 am ET
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned American athletes competing right now in Beijing not to use these games as a venue for protest.
NANCY PELOSI: I would say to our athletes, you're there to compete. Do not risk incurring the anger of the Chinese government, because they are ruthless. I know there is a temptation on the part of some to speak out while they are there. I respect that, but I also worry about what the Chinese government might do to their reputations, to their families.
MIKA: Wow . . . Richard, what do you make of that? What do you make of Speaker Pelosi's comments?
RICHARD HAASS: I understand where she's coming from. I respectfully disagree. Yes, it is going to be risky for athletes to say something, but let's be honest. This Olympics takes place against a backdrop of massive repression in China. We, the United States government has termed it genocide. It's clearly a crime against humanity.
Now, China doesn't want these Olympics to get undermined. So I actually think there's a bit of deterrence here. I think they're going to think twice before they take actions against athletes, because then you could have a massive, massive blowup at the Olympics.
I think our athletes have more leverage than the Speaker was suggesting. But I'll be honest with you, Mika. I understand there's a risk, but I think individual athletes have to make a judgment. And nonviolent protests is in the history of this country, it's in our DNA.
I don't like the idea of an American official telling Americans, don't speak out against massive injustice, leave your principles at home, you 're just an athlete. No. Athletes are citizens, too. So, again, I'm not on the same page here.
. . .
ELISE JORDAN: Well, I think that Richard's right. They have more leverage than Nancy Pelosi is giving them credit for.
And he was far more diplomatic than I'm going to be, in just saying it's shameful what she said, it's shameful to tell our athletes who are going abroad and representing their nation that their free speech should be stifled because we're worried about repression.
Why are we sending our athletes to a country if we are so in fear for their physical safety that they cannot speak out and protest injustices which are happening in China on such a huge level, what's going on, you know, with the Uyghur camps. It just, it blows my mind.
WILLIE GEIST: And Rev, if you listen to Speaker Pelosi, she sounds genuinely concerned about the physical safety of these athletes. That's not a defense of it, but that's what she expressed yesterday.
AL SHARPTON: And I appreciate that, because it's real. But I respectfully disagree with the Speaker here, and I usually am supportive of her.
Because you cannot normalize what they're doing in China. And to go there and act like all is well is to normalize some very butal-- brutal behavior
. . .
So we supposed to leave our principles of protest at the -- when we check in at customs? I don't think so.