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Politics & Policy

Nancy Pelosi told protesters to ‘go back to China.’ Here’s why it went viral

A woman in a pink blazer speaks animatedly, wearing a pin and a mic, against a dark background.
A tense exchange was captured on video between Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and a protester who was calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. The clip has been viewed millions of times and retweeted thousands of times, with some accounts criticizing Pelosi’s remark as racist. | Source: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

This week, a video of Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi in a tense exchange with a protester calling for a cease-fire in Gaza went viral. There’s more to the clip than meets the eye. 

The brief clip, which was circulated Monday by multiple high-profile accounts on X, shows Pelosi in the driveway of her San Francisco home. Climbing into a black SUV, Pelosi is heard telling a protester to “go back to China, where your headquarters is.” 

Since Monday, the clip has been viewed millions of times and retweeted thousands of times, with some accounts criticizing Pelosi’s remark as racist. The anti-war activist group Code Pink—a regular fixture outside Pelosi’s home since the Israel-Hamas war started in October—organized the demonstration and was among the accounts that posted a version of the clip Monday. 

The odd part? Despite claims to the contrary by some popular X accounts, the confrontation between Pelosi and the protester took place on Oct. 29 of last year—not Monday. 

Pelosi’s comments were referencing an August 2023 New York Times investigation that revealed extensive ties between a Code Pink co-founder, Jodie Evans, and groups promoting the agenda of the Chinese Communist Party. The newspaper reported that Code Pink “is part of a lavishly funded influence campaign” that “works closely with the Chinese government media machine” to promote the party’s agenda. 

The Oct. 29 protest also coincided with the one-year anniversary of the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, by a man who told law enforcement he sought to hold the representative hostage.

In a blog post that month, Code Pink said the goal of the demonstration was to “briefly hold Pelosi hostage” to explain why a cease-fire in Gaza is necessary. While a Code Pink spokesperson described the timing as an “unfortunate coincidence,” it may have nonetheless contributed to tensions between Pelosi and the activist group. 

Foreign Ties to Gaza Cease-Fire Protests?

By Monday afternoon, “Go back to China” was a trending topic on X—a sign that the clip had hit a nerve.

It went viral shortly after Pelosi, in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, suggested that some of the Gaza cease-fire protests happening in the U.S. are tied to Russia. “Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what [Russian President Vladimir Putin] would like to see. Same thing with Ukraine,” Pelosi said. “It’s about Putin’s message.” 

A woman in sunglasses and a mask holds a sign demanding that Nancy Pelosi cancel a planned trip to Taiwan.
Code Pink, a frequent fixture outside Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco residence, has been criticized for its ties to groups promoting the Chinese Communist Party. | Josh Koehn/The Standard

“I think some of these protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia,” she continued. “I think some financing should be investigated. And I want to ask the FBI to investigate that.”

Pelosi’s comments sparked blowback from some observers who viewed it as an attempt to delegitimize public demonstrations. In a statement, a Pelosi spokesperson said, “Speaker Pelosi has always supported and defended the right of all Americans to make their views known through peaceful protest. 

“Informed by three decades on the House Intelligence Committee, Speaker Pelosi is acutely aware of how foreign adversaries meddle in American politics to sow division and impact our elections, and she wants to see further investigation ahead of the 2024 election.”

For its part, Code Pink denied that it has any connection to pro-CCP groups or messages, saying in a statement that the Times article was part of an effort to “smear actual American dissent as foreign meddling.” Shortly after the clip of Pelosi went viral, the group issued a press release announcing that Cynthia Papermaster, one of the women in the video, was on a liquid fast outside her home. 

Asian American Backlash

Regardless of the circumstances behind the clip, Pelosi—who represents a large Chinese American population in San Francisco—wasn’t spared criticism from some community leaders concerned about anti-Asian racism.

Stop AAPI Hate, the coalition formed after the Stop Asian Hate movement, issued a statement online criticizing Pelosi’s comment using “an anti-Asian slur against protesters.”

“This type of rhetoric is disturbing for many Asians in America who have been threatened with the same racist phrase,” the group wrote on X. 

Retired San Francisco Superior Court Judge Julie Tang, a close ally of Code Pink who has personally protested outside of Pelosi’s house, said she views Pelosi’s remark as highly inappropriate.

“‘Go back to China’ is a long-standing insult to the Chinese people,” Tang said. “It’s a declaration to Chinese people that they don’t belong here, regardless of our beliefs.”

Malcolm Yeung, the director of Chinatown Community Development Center, defended Pelosi’s remarks and said they “need to be taken in the context of the deeply personal moment her family was experiencing and her long relationship to the AAPI communities.”

Li Miao Lovett, the current vice chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party’s governing board, said she has been a supporter and fan of Pelosi for decades but her words could still cause harm. Lovett, who was born in Taiwan, said she’s not an expert on geopolitical issues but it’s not a good time to fuel international tension.

“Words can bring on a lot of pain, even if not intended to hurt,” Lovett said. “I think the respectful thing to do is give an explanation.”

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Han Li can be reached at