• Thu, Nov 15 2012

27-Year-Old NBC Reporter Asks Nancy Pelosi Whether She’s Too Old To Lead

Oh, no he didn’t: 27-year-old NBC reporter Luke Russert asked 72-year-old House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday whether her continued leadership in the House is a hindrance to her party, considering her age. Pelosi, um, did not take it well. Click through to see the exchange on video.

“Some of your colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on prohibits the party from having a younger leadership and hurts the party in the long term,” Russert said at a press conference in Washington in which Pelosi announced she would stay on in her leadership position in the next term. “What’s your response?”

The crowd of reporters and congresswomen booed, and someone can be heard shouting, “Discrimination! Discrimination!” Pelosi, in testy good humor, said, “Next!” She added, “Oh, you’ve always asked that question, except to [70-year-old Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell.”

But Russert pressed on, and to his credit, it becomes clear he has a pretty reasonable question: Pelosi and her two fellow Democrats leaders in the House are all over 70, and Russert said other congresspeople have been privately grumbling that they’re preventing new potential leaders from advancing.

Pelosi still wasn’t happy. “So you’re suggesting that everybody step aside?” she asked. “Let’s for a moment honor it as a legitimate question, although it’s quite offensive. You don’t realize that, I guess.” She went on to say she’s always been committed to helping elect young people to Congress, particularly women. “I wanted women to be in greater numbers at an earlier age so that their seniority would start to count much sooner,” she told him.

As Russert pointed out on Twitter after the press conference, he asked the same question of another one of those three over-70 leaders, Steny Hoyer, back in 2010. Hoyer just laughed it off.

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  • Lastango

    How I feel about this depends on why Russert is asking it.

    Pelosi personalizes it to Russert by responding with “So you’re suggesting that everybody step aside” and that the question is “quite offensive. You don’t realize that, I guess.”

    ======

    However, Russert began by clarifying that the question doesn’t originate with him. He states “Some of your colleagures privately say…”.

    That’s either true, or it isn’t.

    So, it comes down to whether Russert is making this up or not. If he is, then this smacks of ageism.

    If he isn’t, and Pelosi’s fellow Democrats really are questioning whether Pelosi doesn’t present the image they want to portray, then she ducked a legitimate question about internal Party dissent.

    It’s fair enough that she wouldn’t want to acknowledge opposition to her leadership, or discuss it on record, but — if Russert’s claim is true — it isn’t fair that she should try to evade by making Russert look like an insensitive jerk for asking about it. It would have sufficed to say something like, “I haven’t heard that, and I think Democrats are focused on the positives of senior leadership by women.”