Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA
Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor addresses the Value Voters Summit in Washington, DC, Friday. The Value Voters Summit, sponsored by the Family Research Council, is an annual gathering of the religious right; it provides Republican politicians and presidential candidates an opportunity to display their conservative bona fides.
The second-ranking House Republican castigated "Occupy Wall Street" protesters on Friday, just as Democrats begin cozying up to the weeks-old demonstrations.
House GOP Leader Eric Cantor decried the protests that started several weeks ago in New York, and have spread to major cities across the country. Cantor said in a speech at the Values Voters Summit in Washington that he is "increasingly concerned" about the "growing mobs" represented at the protests.
Cantor's remarks, some of the harshest by a Republican toward the "Occupy" demonstrators, comes amidst a growing political divide over the protests. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi backed the demonstrations, saying, "God bless them for their spontaneity." And other Democrats have been even more open in their embrace of the movement, which has also attracted support from organized labor.
Organizers behind the movement, which expresses outrage toward the conduct of corporate America and seeks campaign finance reform, have hoped it develops into an analogue for the Tea Party on the left, which has helped fuel a Republican political resurgence over the past two years.
"Some in Washington have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans," Cantor said of the protests after accusing the Obama administration's policies of being an "assault on many of our nation's bedrock principles."
Other political leaders have been more coy in their approach toward the demonstrations; President Obama nodded toward the protests as a sign of broader frustration over the state of the economy.
As for Republicans, Mitt Romney accused the protesters of engaging in "class warfare," but has otherwise stayed silent about the demonstrations. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called them the "Obama demonstrations," while Texas Rep. Ron Paul encouraged the protests.
"If they were demonstrating peacefully ... and making a point, and arguing our case, and drawing attention to the Fed–I would say, good!" he told the libertarian magazine Reason.