The Wall Street protesters are a “growing mob” trying to divide the country, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., declared in a speech on Friday.
“God bless them for their spontaneity,” says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Politicians on both sides of the political aisle, for the most part, are continuing to cautiously watch the growth and direction of the loosely formed “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which started in lower Manhattan last month and has spread to Washington and other cities.
But signs that opinions are breaking sharply along party lines intesified Friday as White House spokesman Jay Carney accused Cantor of being a hypocrite.
"I sense a little hypocrisy unbound here," Carney told reporters Friday afternoon. "What we're seeing on the streets of New York is an expression of democracy, which I think is how Mr. Cantor described protests by the tea party. I think both are expressions that are entirely consistent with American democracy."
On Thursday, the protesters appeared to get a boost from President Obama—or at least an acknowledgement of some of their concerns—just at a time when he prepares to do battle with congressional Republicans over his jobs bill. And some of Obama’s union allies joined the demonstrations.
Obama offered that the American people understand that not everyone is “playing by the rules, that Wall Street is an example of that,” adding that the protestors are “giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.”
But Cantor slammed the movement on Friday in a speech in Washington at the 2011 “Value Voters Summit” intended to energize social conservatives.
“I’m increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and other cities across the country," said Cantor at the event sponsored by the Family Research Council Action, the American Family Association, and other evangelical Christian groups.
“And believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans,” he said.
Pelosi, during a news conference on Thursday, provided an opposite take.
“The message of the protesters is a message for establishment every place,” she said. “The focus is on Wall Street and justifiably so. I think that the message of the American people is that no longer… will the recklessness of some on Wall Street cause massive joblessness on Main Street.”
"God bless them for their spontaneity," Pelosi added. "It's independent people coming (together), it's young, it's spontaneous, it's focused, and it's going to be effective."