Rep. Jackie Speier (D., Calif.) on Wednesday defended protesters who shouted at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen until she was forced to leave a restaurant Tuesday night.
CNN’s Erin Burnett asked Speier about the protesters, who were organized by the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America to heckle Nielsen over the administration’s immigration policy. Speier said the protest was “probably spontaneous.”
“What happened there was probably spontaneous. Those weren’t progressives; those were just people who are disgusted by the way the administration has thought it was okay to separate parents and their children,” Speier said.
The heckling was not spontaneous, according to the New York Times, which reported that the socialist group came to the restaurant after finding out Nielsen was there.
After Burnett pressed Speier on whether heckling people at private restaurants was acceptable, the congresswoman blamed President Donald Trump.
“I suppose everyone has the right to have dinner wherever they want,” Speier said. “And I can’t speak to whether that was spontaneous from people that were in the restaurant or if people followed her there. I don’t know the facts and the situation.”
Speier argued that it was Trump’s fault that people would have such a “reaction” to his “hate.”
“If you foment hate as the president does on a daily basis, in his base, it also creates a reaction by others,” Speier said.
She went on to say that Americans look bad to those around the world because the administration is setting the tone.
“We need to recognize that if want to be known as something other than ugly Americans, we have got to act like beautiful Americans,” Speier said. “Right now, that’s not coming out of the the administration.”
Nielsen has been a vocal defender of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy of prosecuting border crossers. The separation of children from families became a contentious issue, leading Trump to sign an executive order calling for families to be detained together during the processing of immigration cases.