Many Republicans have condemned or spoken out against the violent assault on Paul Pelosi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 82-year-old husband, who was knocked unconscious by an intruder at the couple’s San Francisco home the morning of Oct. 28.
Local police identified the attacker as David DePape, 42, of Richmond, California. Law enforcement say he broke into the house, armed with a hammer, looking for the Democratic congresswoman, who was not in the city at the time.
However, while speaking at a Nov. 1 campaign event for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Florida, President Joe Biden said that “nobody on that party,” meaning Republicans, “condemns” the attack on Paul Pelosi “for exactly what it is.”
Biden appeared to be reiterating a point he made a few days earlier about a perceived reluctance by Republican lawmakers and officials to push back on conspiracy theories espoused by some members of their party — theories that news reports suggest may have motivated the attack.
The White House pointed to Biden’s Oct. 29 remarks to reporters, in which he said: “And the generic point I want to make is that, you know, it’s one thing to condemn the violence. But you can’t condemn the violence unless you condemn those people who continue to argue the election was not real, that it’s being stolen … all the malarkey that’s being put out there to undermine democracy.”
“The talk has to stop,” he continued to say. “That’s the problem. That’s the problem. You can’t just say, ‘I feel badly about the violence; we condemn it.’ Condemn what produces the violence, and this talk produces the violence.”
Prior to the attack, DePape is believed to have written online posts repeating theories about fraud in the 2020 election and other conspiracies. For example, the Associated Press reported that in September, someone writing under the name David DePape said that journalists “should be dragged straight out into the street and shot” if they challenged former President Donald Trump’s false claims about his 2020 election loss.
According to the federal criminal complaint, DePape told officers that he entered the home intending to “hold Nancy hostage” unless she was honest with him.
“If Nancy were to tell DePape the ‘truth,’ he would let her go, and if she ‘lied,’ he was going to break ‘her kneecaps,'” the complaint alleges. “DePape was certain that Nancy would not have told the ‘truth.'”
A court filing by local prosecutors revealed that authorities at the scene of the attack said that DePape also told them that he had additional targets, including a local professor and other federal and state politicians and their relatives.
We review what some Republicans have — and have not — said about the assault.
Condemning the Attack
We found several examples of Republicans, including members of GOP leadership, taking to Twitter to condemn the attack, specifically, or politically motivated violence, generally.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky wrote:
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the Senate Republican whip, wrote:
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House minority whip, wrote:
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the House Republican Conference chair, wrote:
Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chair, wrote:
And former Vice President Mike Pence wrote:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy commented on the attack in an Oct. 30 Fox News interview.
After host Maria Bartiromo brought up crime and said that “people are afraid to go outside their house,” she asked if McCarthy had an update on Paul Pelosi, who underwent surgery for a fractured skull.
He responded: “Well, let me be perfectly clear. Violence or threat of violence has no place in our society. And what happened to Paul Pelosi is wrong.”
McCarthy said that he spoke to the House speaker, conveyed that his “thoughts and prayers” were with the family, wished her husband a “speedy recovery,” and said he hoped “we’re able to stop this crime across our country.”
Condemning the Rhetoric
We did not find nearly the same number of tweets condemning the kind of hyperpartisan and conspiracy-based rhetoric that may have influenced DePape to target Nancy Pelosi and others.
One Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a member of the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, wrote:
Kinzinger expanded on his comments in a CNN interview the same day.
“I mean, obviously, this is somebody that has been convinced, you know, I think even without having to do much research, he has been convinced that the election was stolen, that there is a cabal of people running the government, that it’s not government for or by the people, as he has been convinced,” he said of DePape. “This is what happens when you convince a third of the country that the election was stolen and that the other side is an enemy. You other-ize people. You convince folks that your political opposition is out to get you and your family.”
Kinzinger said he was not hopeful that the attack would be “universally condemned” by members of his party – noting that some conservatives had already parroted false claims about the incident.
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, another Republican on the Jan. 6 committee, called it “disgraceful” that some members of her party, and members of Trump’s family, mocked the attack on Paul Pelosi.
“The violence at the Capitol on January 6 was a direct result of Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen,” Cheney said in a Nov. 1 interview on PBS’ NewsHour. “And those claims — he continues to make those claims to this day. Others continue to make those claims to this day. And we know — it’s entirely foreseeable that those will lead to violence.”
She also said Democrats and Republicans demonizing one another “has to stop.”
“I think that, when you see what is happening in our country, when you watch the extent to which political violence — or violence has become part of political discourse, that is a — that’s a road we just can’t go down,” she said.
Other Republicans have resisted calling out members of their party.
In an Oct. 30 interview, CNN’s Dana Bash asked Sen. Rick Scott, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, if Republicans need to “do more to reject conspiracy theories and dangerous rhetoric.” Instead of answering the question, he talked about increasing confidence in U.S. elections.
“I think what we have to do is, one, we have to condemn the violence, and then we have to do everything we can to get people — make sure people feel comfortable about these elections,” Scott said. “We have got to do everything we can to get people comfortable that this election in nine days is going to be free and fair. That people’s votes are all going to be counted fairly, they’re not going to be diluted.”
At least one other Republican, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, has said that both Republicans and Democrats should be more mindful of the things they say.
“Well, I think that people in both parties should tone down the rhetoric,” Comer told CNN’s Pamela Brown, who asked him in an Oct. 29 interview whether his colleagues should “tone down the rhetoric here and also bat away some of these conspiracies that this attacker was apparently talking about online.”
“It’s a terrible environment,” Comer said. “And I believe people in both parties are guilty of intense rhetoric that really leads to, you know, feed into these people who are deranged and create violence. It’s the same thing that happened with the shooter that shot at Steve Scalise and several of the Republican colleagues.”
Comer continued: “Violence is wrong. These people need to be put in jail for the rest of their life. And you know, we need to try to do better in both parties. Myself included.”
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