SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi has suggested sexism is behind the calls for Senator Dianne Feinstein to step down from public office.
Pelosi told ABC7 News photojournalist Jackie Sissel on Wednesday that the 89-year-old Senator "deserves the respect to get well and be back on duty."
The video in the player above is from a previous report.
She then suggested sexism could be at play.
"I don't know what political agendas are at work that are going after Senator Feinstein in that way," Pelosi said, adding: "I've never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate in that way." Political observers have pointed out that the Senate has a long history of accommodating members who are sick or elderly.
RELATED: Sen. Feinstein asks for temporary Judiciary Committee replacement amid calls for her resignation
"Remember, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator John McCain being gone for long stretches of time as they dealt with what ended up being terminal illnesses," ABC News Political Director Rick Klein told our sister station in Los Angeles. "And that was a fact of life in the Senate that you just had one less vote on that side and that you didn't have that senator." Feinstein's supporters say that California's longest serving Senator deserves the same respect.
"You just can't be committed to someone's candidacy and say the day they might be infirm for some time period that you're abandoning them. That's crazy!" former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown told ABC7 News.
"All of those people raising all those questions should be far more respectful of the more than 40 years of quality service provided to the voters of this state by Dianne Feinstein," Brown added. "Senator Feinstein has been elected. She's been entitled to the job, and believe me when you are elected to something you are expected to serve."
Pelosi and Brown's comments come as a growing number of Democrats have called for Feinstein to step down from the Senate.
Feinstein has been out of work since early March recovering from shingles. During that time, she has missed 60 votes, including 25 judicial appointments, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Her absence is particularly felt due to her position on the Judiciary Committee which is stalling the confirmation of President Biden's judicial nominees.
Senator Dianne Feinstein on Wednesday said that she is requesting to temporarily step aside from the Senate Judiciary Committee during her recovery.
"I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it's safe," Feinstein said in a statement. "In the meantime, I remain committed to the job and will continue to work from home in San Francisco."
RELATED: Senator Dianne Feinstein hospitalized in SF, being treated for shingles, rep confirms
Feinstein then added: "I understand that my absence could delay the important work of the Judiciary Committee, so I've asked Leader Schumer to ask the Senate to allow another Democratic senator to temporarily serve until I'm able to resume my committee work."
Feinstein is the oldest member of Congress. She announced in February that she would not seek reelection in 2024, although she promised to stay on for the remainder of her term.
If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live