Pelosi calls for 'balance' between free speech and safety after Buffalo shooting

"There has to be vigilance," the House speaker said on ABC's "This Week."

May 15, 2022, 11:56 AM

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that social media companies have to address and track down extremism on their platforms, after a gunman who reportedly espoused white supremacist ideology opened fire at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket on Saturday, killing at least 10.

Among the 13 victims shot, 11 were Black and two were white, authorities said.

"There has to be vigilance," Pelosi, D-Calif., told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos. "People have to alert other authorities if they think that someone is on a path to domestic terrorism, to violence of any kind."

Investigators are looking at multiple online postings that may be associated with the shooter, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, that include praise for South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof and the New Zealand mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant, sources told ABC News.

"Obviously you have to balance the free speech issues," Pelosi said. "Freedom is so important to us but that freedom also carries public safety with it and we have to balance that."

"Did you ever think you would be Speaker of the House, when our greatest national security threat, according to so many analysts, is domestic terror?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"The statistics have been showing us there's more of a threat of domestic terrorism and violence than international, global terrorism affecting our homeland," Pelosi replied.

The California Democrat said her party in Congress is "of course trying to do something about gun violence" but noted that efforts to address mass shootings on Capitol Hill have fallen short in the Senate, where Republicans have opposed gun control measures, making it impossible for Democrats to advance legislation over the 60-vote threshold in the chamber.

As Americans grapple with record levels of inflation, Stephanopoulos pressed Pelosi on whether Democrats will pay a political price come November and what can be done to address the issue.

"It's certainly going to be working against Democrats heading into the midterms," he said. "Is there anything you can do between now and November to bring prices down?"

Pelosi noted the House introduction of legislation that "will address supply chain."

"It's very important to make America independent and self-sufficient so that we're not as dependent on product coming from overseas, whether it's because of COVID or whatever else. But also because of not having shared values," she said, noting that the bill includes $52 billion for chips and more than $40 billion "for supply chain concerns specifically."

Pelosi also said she plans to bring legislation to the floor this week to address potential "market manipulation" by energy companies, arguing Congress needs to investigate potential price gouging and "have a bright light of transparency on how companies are making big profits at the expense … of the consumer."

Stephanopoulos pressed Pelosi on the nationwide shortage in baby formula. Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the House, tweeted, "Joe Biden continues to put America LAST by shipping pallets of baby formula to the southern border as American families face empty shelves. This is unacceptable."

Customs and Border Protection has a legal obligation to provide a standard of care due to the Flores Agreement that stemmed from a lawsuit filed against now-disbanded Immigration and Naturalization Services. Negotiated in 1997 by the Clinton Justice Department, the agreement expressly states that "facilities will provide access to toilets and sinks, drinking water and food as appropriate," in addition to other requirements.

Pelosi called Stefanik's statement "totally irresponsible." She said Democrats have scheduled multiple hearings into the issue and that Congress "must do something as quickly as possible, but as safely as possible," noting an effort by Democrats to approve new funding to speed imports of formula from other countries.

Pelosi also acknowledged the unprecedented nature of the House Jan. 6 select committee's subpoenas to five sitting GOP members of Congress to compel their testimony -- but did not say whether the House would vote to hold them in contempt of Congress for any defiance.

"I know you give the committee a wide berth, but if Leader McCarthy and the other Republicans hold out, will the House vote to hold them in contempt?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"The committee will take this one step at a time, but I'm very proud of the committee," Pelosi replied.

"People will say to me, 'Well this is unprecedented.' Yeah, well it was unprecedented for the president of the United States to incite an insurrection on the Capitol, on the Congress," she said.

ABC News' Luke Barr contributed to this report.