WASHINGTON (CNN) – Seeking to put an end to questions about what Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew about waterboarding and demonstrate he is standing behind her, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday strongly defended the speaker.
"I want to be very clear because I think there's been some misinterpretation of my views. ... I believe the speaker," Hoyer told reporters. "I believe the speaker when she says she was not specifically briefed on the types of - in very polite terms - enhanced interrogation techniques that were being employed."
Last week Hoyer had to clarify comments he made that seemed to suggest he supported an investigation into what Pelosi knew about waterboarding. He insisted he was talking only about a probe focused on former Bush administration officials who authorized the harsh interrogation methods.
A former leadership rival of Pelosi, Hoyer blamed Republicans for the continued focus on the speaker, saying, "It continues to be a Republican tactic to distract the public from focusing on what was done, what the justification for doing it was, and for ... President Bush's comment that we don't torture."
Pressed further on how the speaker could put the issue behind her, the majority leader tried to turn the tables on the press. "Republicans are going to stay on it as long as you guys keep printing it, as long as it continues to be a television item - not about the substance, but about the distraction," he said. "As long as you want to feed on it, the Republicans will continue to feed you."
Hoyer characterized the speaker's support among House Democrats as "solid" and said not a single member has raised the issue with him on the House floor or in meetings.