01:47 - Source: CNN
Rep. Waters: Confront White House officials
Washington CNN —  

New York Rep. Adriano Espaillat refused Monday to criticize Rep. Maxine Waters’ call to publicly harass Trump administration officials, saying his fellow Democrat is “entitled to her opinion.”

Over the weekend, Waters encouraged people to publicly confront and harass members of the Trump administration and “tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

In the context of discussing family separations at the border, Espaillat was asked about Waters’ remarks. He dismissed the questions about whether Waters’ comments were inappropriate, saying it distracts from the “real issues of the American people.”

The full transcript of the interview is below.

CNN’s JOHN BERMAN: Are you comfortable with that? Telling members of the administration, supporters of the President in this case, they’re not welcome anymore in a restaurant?

ESPAILLAT: I love Aunty Maxine, and she is an iconic member of Congress and a great woman. Look, I think we should not be trapped into these side stories, right, about whether or not people get angry at you at a restaurant, at a store. I have constituencies. Some of them love me and some of them don’t like me that much. That’s what the nature of public service is. So to get sidetracked into these debates about whether or not somebody was welcome at a restaurant takes our eyes off of what’s going on in America today.

BERMAN: We are laser-focused on these 2,000 kids and we’ve been talking about them a great deal. It doesn’t mean we don’t have time to ask a question about what is right and civil. I’m just asking you, are you comfortable with what Maxine Waters just said?

ESPAILLAT: Look, I love Maxine Waters. I don’t think that the base should become an episode of ‘The Apprentice.’ I think we should focus on the issues like what’s happening to these kids at the border. The cuts that are coming after we pass this tax scam that is going to hurt Medicaid and Medicare. Those are the real issues of the American people. Maxine Waters is entitled to her opinion and I respect that.

BERMAN: Do you wish she hadn’t said it?

ESPAILLAT: No. She has the right to say what she feels, and I support it.