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Pelosi Concerned Rhetoric Could Incite Violence

Asked at a press conference today if she was concerned that "anti-government rhetoric" could lead to violence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi alluded to the assassination of gay rights leader Harvey Milk and said people will "have to take responsibility for any incitement that they may cause."

"We are a free country and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance," she said. "I have concerns about some of the language that is being used because I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco, this kind of rhetoric was very frightening and it gave -- it created a climate in which ... violence took place."

Pelosi, of course, represents San Francisco. Though she doesn't reference President Obama, it's a delicate matter to be discussing political assassination when there is real concern about the president's safety. The remarks are especially stunning when you consider the uproar caused by comments Hillary Clinton made late in the 2008 Democratic primary about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, which some viewed as her suggesting then-Senator Obama could be killed as well.

Pelosi said she wishes people would "curb our enthusiasm" since some who are hearing some strong rhetoric "are not as balanced as the person making the statement might assume."

"Again, our country is great because people can say what they think and they believe, but I also think that they have to take responsibility for any incitement that they may cause."

You can see the question that lead to these comments, and the speaker's full response, after the jump.

Q: "Madam Speaker, in terms of the political tone -- the tone of the debate, Hoyer said earlier this week he thought it was the most vitriolic since '93, '94. Around that time, we also saw acts of domestic violence, domestic terrorism.

How concerned are you about the tone of the political debate in terms of people talking about anti-government rhetoric and so on, and the possibility of violence?"

PELOSI: "Well, I think we all have to take responsibility for our actions and our words. We are a free country and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance. I have concerns about some of the language that is being used because I saw -- I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco, this kind of -- of rhetoric was very frightening and it gave -- it created a climate in which we -- violence took place.

"And so I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made, understanding that -- that some of the people -- the ears it is falling on are not as balanced as the person making the statement might assume.

"But, again, our country is great because people can say what they think and they believe, but I also think that they have to take responsibility for any incitement that they may cause."