Bright mum on Pelosi comment
Former Montgomery mayor and freshman U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright created an uproar with comments he made jokingly earlier this week about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
During a question and answer session following his speech to the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Bright was asked about his support for Pelosi. After a laundry list of reasons why Pelosi might not be in the running for speaker, Bright said "heck, she might even get sick and die."
The comments, made to the audience and repeated by Bright to Montgomery Advertiser reporter Cosby Woodruff, were first reported on the Advertiser’s political blog, "South Union Street," but have received attention from the Washington Post, the Drudge Report, the Associated Press, CBS News, Rush Limbaugh, and a variety of Websites and blogs. "South Union Street" had received more than 325,000 hits by 7 p.m. Thursday.
The chamber audience laughed at the comments. Bright also reiterated to Woodruff after the speech that he was joking.
Bright, who is facing a tough reelection campaign against Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby this fall, joked during the breakfast that Pelosi might lose her own election, decide not to run for the speaker's job or otherwise not be available.
"I don't like to cross bridges until I get to them," Bright said when answering the question about Pelosi at the Eggs and Issues breakfast. "Maybe she won't even be a candidate."
Bright, a Democrat, has voted with Republicans on most major issues and has been labeled as one of the most independent members of Congress, but has been criticized by Republicans in his conservative district for voting for Pelosi as speaker.
"Bobby Bright's statement yesterday was an undisciplined comment at a time when America needs a disciplined approach to get our economy back on track, stop runaway Washington spending, and remain focused on creating jobs," Roby said in a statement.
A spokesman for Bright said Thursday that "we're not commenting any further."
Auburn University Montgomery political scientist Brad Moody said he didn’t think that Bright's comments would have much effect on his quest to be re-elected to a second term in Congress, though his opponent is clearly running against Pelosi.
Moody said he does have some other things working against him including a political climate that is anti-incumbency and an economy that is still struggling.
"To me that is going to hurt a lot more," he said.
Moody said Bright has voted conservatively as a Democrat, but his position on the issues are not clear.
"We know what he's against, but what is he for," Moody asked. "I think that's a whole lot more important than whether he will or will not vote for Nancy Pelosi for another term as speaker of the House."
Bright is the first Democrat since the 1960s to represent the conservative district, which includes parts of Montgomery and southeast Alabama.
His reelection battle is expected to be one of the most competitive this fall.
With Bright voting with Republicans on most major issues including the health care and banking overhauls, the GOP has turned to criticism of him voting for Pelosi as speaker.
Bright has refused to answer whether he would vote for Pelosi again as speaker. In 2008, he refused to answer which candidate he would vote for for president, vowing not to burn bridges and to work with whoever was elected, and would not say if he would vote for Pelosi, but did say he would prefer a conservative Blue Dog Democrat as speaker.
Roby, a Republican, is in her second term on the council.
"Clearly Bobby Bright will say anything and do anything to get out from under the tanking popularity of Nancy Pelosi and her job-killing agenda," Roby continued in her statement. " ... There's only one way we can put an end to the Pelosi agenda, and that’s by changing the party running Congress, starting right here in Alabama's 2nd District."
One of Pelosi's most frequent critics is calling on Bright to apologize to her.
"Bobby Bright's comments -- even if made in jest -- are indefensible," said Andy Sere, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, in a statement.
The last time an Alabama congressman received so much attention because of something he said about Pelosi wasn't all that long ago.
Last year, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers of Saks referred to Pelosi as "crazy," "mean as a snake" and "Tom DeLay in a skirt," because of what he believed was her partisan leadership of the Democratic majority.
"I personally think she's crazy," Rogers said of Pelosi, eliciting chuckles from a group he was speaking to at Auburn University Montgomery.
His comments, like Bright's, were first reported on the Advertiser's "South Union Street" blog and then picked up nationally. The post garnered hundreds of thousands of comments from people all over the country, mostly supporters of Rogers' view on Pelosi.
The head of the Alabama Democratic Party, Joe Turnham, immediately issued a press release demanding that Rogers apologize to Pelosi.
"At some point, you have to maintain professional decorum and at least reach out and try to work with folks ...," Turnham said at the time. "She is the speaker of the House of Representatives."
No such demands for an apology were issued Thursday.
-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen, Markeshia Ricks and Cosby Woodruff