Jayapal responds after being criticized for CNN comments about Israel-Hamas war

Dec 7, 2023, 7:08 AM

Image: U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., speaks during a rail union workers rally outside of the ...

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., speaks during a rail union workers rally outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13, 2022. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP)

(Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP)

Democratic U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle is facing criticism over comments she made on CNN’s “State of the Union” last weekend.

She was asked about the rape of Israeli women during the Oct. 7 attack that started the Israel-Hamas war during Sunday’s episode of the news show.

Jayapal condemned the rapes as horrific but said there must be a balance in condemnation.

“I think we cannot say that one war crime deserves another. That is not what international humanitarian law says,” Jayapal said.

Hamas has denied accusations but, according to the BBC, Hamas had a premeditated plan to use sexual assault as a weapon of war.

“I think we have to balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians,”  Jayapal said.

Additional coverage: Israel orders evacuations as it widens offensive, but Palestinians are running out of places to go

Jayapal’s office has not yet responded to KIRO Newsradio’s request for comment. But her office released a statement Tuesday about Hamas’ use of rape and sexual violence.

Let me be completely clear again that I unequivocally condemn Hamas’ use of rape and sexual violence as an act of war,” the statement begins. “This is horrific and across the world, we must stand with our sisters, families, and survivors of rape and sexual assault everywhere to condemn this violence and hold perpetrators accountable.”

She went on to quote herself and what she said on the show, stating, “I have condemned what Hamas has done, I’ve condemned all of the actions…rape is horrific, sexual assault is horrific.” She added that she “will continue to condemn the atrocities committed by Hamas and continue to call for Hamas’s defeat.”

“My comment about balance was not about rape, and not intended to minimize rape and sexual assault in any way,” Jayapal said in the statement. “It was about recognizing the tremendous pain and trauma of so many — Israelis, Palestinians and their diaspora communities — in this terrible war.”

The congresswoman’s statement also called out critics for interpreting her comments the way they did.

“I understand that I have critics who disagree with me on policy, but for them to insinuate that I would think, say or act in any way that equivocates on rape is outrageous and completely inconsistent with my record and life’s work,” Jayapal said. “It also deeply hurts the ability to have meaningful conversations about critical issues.”

Comment condemnation

Jayapal received immediate criticism for her comments from across the political spectrum.

“I found Jayapal’s comments to be horrendous and worthy of condemnation,” Republican strategist Randy Pepple said to KIRO Newsradio.

There has also been criticism from within her own party, but one strategist says Jayapal is focused on how Palestinian people are being harmed and killed.

“Her focus is on the plight of Palestinians. That’s the story and the message she is working to get worldwide,” Democratic strategist Cathy Allen said said to KIRO Newsradio.

In his piece condemning Jayapal’s appearance on the network Sunday, Jason Rantz of KTTH noted that people on both sides of the aisle took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to criticize her words.

From Jason Rantz: Jayapal dismisses Hamas rape charges on CNN

Rantz cited a post from Daniella Greenbaum Davis, a former writer for ABC’s “The View.” She called the comments “depraved.”

Democratic Majority for Israel’s account posted multiple times about the interview. One post reads, “Really? Balance in condemning mass rape as a weapon?”

Rantz also noted “go-to conservative basher Joe Walsh” said: “Jayapal had neither the decency, fairness, or courage to unequivocally condemn what Hamas did. She had to say ‘but.'”

Similarly, CNN medical analyst Jonathan Reiner called attention to the comment that “we have to be balanced” in our condemnation of rape.

Editors’ note: This story was originally published on Monday, Dec. 4. It has been updated several times since then, including on Wednesday, Dec. 6.

Contributing: Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

KIRO Newsradio

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Jayapal responds after being criticized for CNN comments about Israel-Hamas war