The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Republicans blame ‘both sides’ for political violence after Paul Pelosi attack

Republicans spoke Oct. 30 about the attack of Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). (Video: The Washington Post)
6 min

Several Republicans on Sunday tempered their denunciations of an attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), casting blame for political violence on “both sides” of the aisle.

While many GOP politicians have condemned the attack, former president Donald Trump has so far remained silent.

Paul Pelosi, 82, was continuing to recover from his injuries, Nancy Pelosi said in a letter Saturday night, following surgery for a fractured skull and other wounds from the attack early Friday. San Francisco police have identified the suspect in the attack as David DePape, 42, who appears to have been deeply drawn into election falsehoods, political conspiracy theories such as QAnon and fringe rantings from various right-wing sites.

The San Francisco district attorney’s office said Sunday that the suspect broke into the house through a rear window and then went upstairs, where he found Paul Pelosi. The district attorney has said she will bring forward multiple felony charges Monday and expects an arraignment Tuesday.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called the attack on Paul Pelosi “disgusting.”

He then shifted the discussion to reports that Republicans have been vulnerable to politically motivated attacks, too.

“We had a door knocker in Florida that was attacked,” he said, referring to a recent attack on a Republican canvasser that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) claimed was politically motivated. Police have not backed up that assertion. “I mean, this stuff has to stop.”

Asked whether Republicans should do more to reject dangerous rhetoric and conspiracy theories that fuel such attacks, Scott said the focus should be condemning violent attacks and ensuring election integrity.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” host Margaret Brennan questioned Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) about his Twitter post last week of a video of him firing a gun at a shooting range with the hashtag #FirePelosi.

Emmer, who is chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, defended the imagery, saying he was touting the Second Amendment rather than promoting violence.

He also returned to arguing about both sides when asked about armed people in Arizona staking out ballot drop boxes.

“Again, no one should feel intimidated when they’re exercising their right to vote, Emmer said. “You’ve got stories on both sides of the aisle. You get stories in many different states about how people have felt as though their right was infringed on.

Emmer also brought up the 2017 shooting of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) “by a Bernie Sanders supporter,” telling Brennan that he “never heard you or anyone else in the media trying to blame Democrats for what happened.”

At the time, Nancy Pelosi condemned the “despicable and cowardly attack,” which took place at a practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. “On days like today, there are no Democrats or Republicans, only Americans united in our hopes and prayers for the wounded,” Pelosi said then.

David DePape, 42, is facing state and federal criminal charges after attacking Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), on Oct. 28. (Video: The Washington Post)

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) wrote on Twitter that the Facebook page of the suspect in Paul Pelosi’s attack “looks identical” to those of Trump, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.).

“We must draw the straight lines that connect violent political rhetoric and violent acts,” Swalwell tweeted Saturday evening. “All three of them have glorified violence and [DePape] acted on it.”

The Washington Post confirmed that a voluminous blog written under DePape’s name was filled with deeply antisemitic writings and baseless claims as well as pro-Donald Trump and anti-Democratic posts. It was registered to a house in Richmond, Calif., where DePape lives, according to neighbors.

Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said Sunday it was “unfair” for Democrats to link Republicans’ inflammatory rhetoric toward their political opponents to the attack on Paul Pelosi.

“I think this is a deranged individual,” McDaniel said on “Fox News Sunday.” “You can’t say people saying, ‘let’s fire Pelosi’ or ‘let’s take back the House’ is saying ‘go do violence.’ It’s just unfair. And I think we all need to recognize violence is up across the board.”

McDaniel cited an attack in July against New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin at a campaign event, and falsely claimed that President Biden “didn’t talk about the assassination attempt against” Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, which Biden condemned.

“But, of course, we wish Paul Pelosi a recovery,” McDaniel added. “We don’t like this at all across the board. We don’t want to see attacks on any politician from any political background.”

When asked if there was a connection between rising political violence and Trump’s rhetoric, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said there was “a connection to everybody in all of this.”

“Look, it’s not just about former president Trump,” he said. “I mean, people are getting upset about inflation. They’re getting upset, with you know, issues that happened on what we would consider a very minor level, but to them, it’s passionate, it’s the end.”

Elon Musk, right-wing figures push misinformation about Pelosi attack

Several lawmakers have also used the latest attack to press for better security measures. The top leaders of the House and the Senate have protective details, but that protection does not extend to their families.

Changes to that legislation should be “strongly considered,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” noting that many members of Congress beyond the “top four” receive threats.

Klobuchar also slammed social media companies for making money by allowing election falsehoods and hate speech to proliferate. Her remarks came shortly after Elon Musk, who just acquired Twitter last week, amplified a conspiracy theory about the Paul Pelosi attack on the platform that he now owns. Several hours later, Musk deleted the tweet.

“I think it is really important that people realize that it is not just this moment of this horrific attack, but that we have seen violence perpetrated throughout our political system,” Klobuchar said. “This has to end. And there are several things we can do from the security standpoint … but it is also about making sure we don’t add more election deniers to our political system.”

Pelosi, who has vehemently denounced political violence in the past, including the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, has so far not linked politics to the attack on her husband.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter to members of Congress late Saturday night, Pelosi confirmed that “a violent man broke into our family home, demanded to confront me and brutally attacked my husband Paul.”

“Our children, our grandchildren and I are heartbroken and traumatized by the life-threatening attack on our Pop,” she wrote. “Please know that the outpouring of prayers and warm wishes from so many in the Congress is a comfort to our family and is helping Paul make progress with his recovery. His condition continues to improve.”

Stephanie McCrummen, Laurie McGinley, Kim Bellware and Paul Kane contributed to this report.