Q: Did Rep. Nancy Pelosi tell Democrats to lie to get elected?
A: No. She said Democratic candidates who oppose her becoming House speaker again should “do whatever you have to do,” as long as they win.
As the 2018 midterm elections near, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is under increasing pressure as some of her fellow Democrats have indicated that they will not support her becoming House speaker, if the party regains control.
That was one of the subjects raised recently by a Washington Post columnist who interviewed the Democratic leader on MSNBC’s “AM Joy.”
But in that exchange with guest host Jonathan Capehart, Pelosi did not tell Democrats to lie in order to get elected, as some conservative websites have claimed.
“Pelosi Sinks to New Low, Tells Dems: If You Have to Lie to Voters to Win, Do It,” reads an Aug. 14 headline on the Western Journal. That story has received nearly 80,000 engagements — including almost 22,000 shares — on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle data. It was published days later on teaparty.org.
The story says that Pelosi “essentially told the members of her party to ‘do whatever you have to do’ to get elected, even if that means lying to their constituents to tell them what they want to hear.”
Capehart, Aug. 12: NBC News has a story about all the Democrats who are running for election this year. They interviewed, you can see it there, Democrats opposing Pelosi. And these are the 51 people who were surveyed who are candidates. Forty-two of them are Democratic nominees, nine of them are incumbents who have said that they will not support you in the run for speaker.
Pelosi: Well let me just say first —
Capehart: Well one, why not, if the Democrats take back the House, give up the gavel?
Pelosi: Well, first of all, let me just say this, and I know NBC has been on a jag of this — this is one of their priorities to undermine my prospects as speaker. But putting that aside, the — I have not asked one person for a vote. I haven’t asked a candidate or an incumbent for a vote. What’s important, and I know better than anybody how important it is for us to win this election because I see up close and personal what the Republicans and this president are doing.
I do not think our opponents should select the leaders of our party. The Republicans are spending millions — tens of millions — of dollars against me because they’re afraid of me, because I outraise them in the political arena, because I outsmart them at the negotiating table and because I’m a woman who’s going to be a seat at that table. And that, for me, is very important. If Hillary Clinton had won and had sat at the head of that table, it’d be different. But I’m not yielding — I’m not yielding that.
Now I do believe that none of us is indispensable, but I think I’m the best person for the job and I won’t let the Republican ads, which are just flooding these districts. And I say to the candidates, do whatever you have to do, just win, baby. I know one in five children in America lives in poverty. We must win this. When the caucus decides, it will decide whose name they will send to the floor, then — only then, after the election, will I ask people for their support.
Pelosi’s “do whatever you have to do” comment is vague, but it does not substantiate the headline that Pelosi told Democratic candidates, “If you have to lie to voters to win, do it.”
She never told anyone to lie. Instead, she acknowledged the reality that Democrats seeking election may not support her leading the party, and indicated that she’ll work on getting their support after the elections.
It also wasn’t the first time that Pelosi has said something like that while addressing intraparty opposition to her becoming speaker again.
“I think if they have to do that to win the election, I’m all for winning,” she said in a May interview with Politico. “I think many of them are saying we need new leadership. I don’t take offense at that.”
Pelosi’s office did not return our request for clarification of Pelosi’s comments to Capehart. We will update this story if we get a response.
A June Gallup poll found that 55 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of Pelosi, the “lowest in nine years.” And just 29 percent of all Americans had a favorable view of her.
She’s not alone, though. Among the other congressional leaders, Gallup found that 24 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and 29 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The outgoing Republican speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, had the highest favorable rating — 40 percent — according to Gallup.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories shared on the social media network.
Update, Aug. 23: After we published this article, Western Journal updated its story and headline to reflect that it was an opinion article. The website said in a correction that the story was “intended to be a commentary piece” but “sounded like a dishonest straight news piece.” It also apologized for any “confusion” caused by its previous headline, which “stated that Rep. Pelosi had instructed Democrats to lie in order to win in 2018; she did not.”
Brenan, Megan. “Top Congressional Leaders Viewed Negatively on Balance.” Gallup. 26 Jun 2018.
Dugan, Andrew. “Snapshot: In June, About 1 in 5 Approve of Congress.” Gallup. 15 Jun 2018.
Nelson, Louis. “Pelosi’s message to Dems who criticize her while campaigning: ‘Just win, baby.’” Politico. 8 May 2018.
“Survey: More than 50 Dems running for House won’t support Pelosi.” NBC News. 10 Aug 2018.