It’s been less than a week since a man broke into the San Francisco home of Nancy Pelosi, assaulting her husband, and already the internet has been set ablaze with a slew of right-wing conspiracy theories and amped-up false claims aimed at mocking and belittling the House speaker, while also casting doubt on what authorities have said about the case.
While the suspect, David DePape, may have invaded the Pelosi home, the episode highlights that the GOP also bears its share of the responsibility.
Although some Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, did the right thing and publicly condemned the attack on Paul Pelosi, others on the right jumped at the chance to get some digs in.
Although DePape himself has debunked the various theories that he and Paul Pelosi were romantically connected — DePape has reportedly told police that he was really seeking the House speaker, whom he planned to kidnap, interrogate and brutally torture — rumors that insinuate a secret relationship abound.
Notably, this was given momentum by the new owner of Twitter, Elon Musk, who, among others, spread homophobic misinformation about the motive behind the attack. In a since-deleted tweet, Musk linked to an unreliable source and wrote, “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye.” Unsurprisingly, the tweet gained tens of thousands of retweets and likes.
Fox News anchor Jesse Watters has also continued to fan the flames of some sort of an elaborate cover-up, suggesting that, even after the criminal complaint was released Monday, there were suspicious details missing, suggestively asking out loud how DePape could “even get inside the house“ – a view former President Donald Trump later echoed on a radio show. “The glass, it seems, was broken from the inside to the out, so it wasn’t a break-in, it was a break-out,” Trump said.
Perhaps the most craven comment by a prominent Republican was reserved for Donald Trump Jr., the self-proclaimed “meme war general,” who retweeted a picture of a pair of underwear and a hammer with the caption “Got my Paul Pelosi Halloween costume ready.”
That MAGA Republicans would seize on this horrendous event to score political points or, worse yet, serve some noxious need to simply demonize liberals at every turn regardless of the circumstances, shouldn’t come a surprise to anyone who has been watching the downward spiral of feculence that has engulfed large swaths of the GOP in recent years.
In fact, one need not be a professional surveyor to draw a straight line from the attempted coup and assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to this most recent brutal attack on the speaker’s husband.
Both of these events are connected in that they all feed off of the very same venom and pernicious lies perpetuated by a party and right-wing media echo chamber that have, by and large, abandoned any semblance of pretending to adhere to democratic principles or upholding the rule of law. The revelation that DePape allegedly called out “Where’s Nancy?” during the home invasion echoed the chants of pro-Trump rioters inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 who were allegedly intent on hunting down and killing the House speaker in a bid to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
The break-in at the Pelosi residence marks a dramatic escalation of what many Democratic lawmakers have long feared. Following the attack on Paul Pelosi, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), said it best: “Somebody is going to die.” That’s very well what could have happened last week at the Pelosi residence.
And after daily assaults by conservative pundits on TV and a nonstop feed of anti-progressive vitriol on right-wing social media, leaders of the GOP should not be able to escape blame.
DePape has been charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, residential burglary, false imprisonment and threatening a public official. He pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday.
Following his plea, prosecutors filed a detention memo with comments DePape allegedly made to authorities. “I’m sick of the insane f------ level of lies coming out of Washington, D.C. I came here to have a little chat with his wife,” DePape said he told Paul Pelosi, according to the memo.
It would be a mistake not to see how DePape was radicalized (at least in part) by a right-wing media that does the bidding of a Republican Party, which has seemingly embraced a win-at-all-costs, democracy-be-damned mentality.
In blog posts on a website he operated, it appears he fed off of a steady diet of fake news and half-truths that align with far-right extremism. This includes questioning the results of the 2020 election, a position propagated by Trump and his enablers, as well as various QAnon conspiracy theories. Make no mistake about it — there are others like DePape out there waiting for the right opportunity to harm other Democratic officials.
Perhaps the saddest part of this situation is that while DePape is rightly facing multiple felony charges, for the GOP, which provided the oxygen that this type of radicalism needs to breathe, there will be absolutely no consequences. For many Republicans, it will be business as usual.