Days after the heinous attack on Paul Pelosi by a man federal authorities have accused of plotting to kidnap his wife, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it’s clear that too many Republican officials and their mouthpieces in the conspiracy-laden right-wing media are not taking this incident seriously.
Instead of treating it for what it is — a reprehensible breach of American values and a dangerous threat to democracy in the heat of election season — they are making jokes and spreading homophobic falsehoods. As if that’s not bad enough, some have the gall to portray themselves as victims when reasonable people push back at this cruel disinformation campaign.
Kari Lake, the GOP nominee for governor of Arizona, used the attack as a bizarre punch line in remarks at a campaign event Monday when she was asked about school security. “Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in D.C. — apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection,” Lake said to laughter from audience members so depraved that they apparently find humor in an 82-year-old man being hit over the head with a hammer so savagely that he remains hospitalized with a skull fracture.
Later in the day, Lake doubled down on her dismissive comment in a Fox News interview with Tucker Carlson in which she complained that she was being silenced for “speaking the truth.” And then she went on to spread the baseless claim that suspected assailant David DePape was found “half naked” in the Pelosis’ San Francisco home.
Never mind that the criminal complaint says police pulled numerous items from the pocket of DePape’s shorts and interviewed a security guard who saw someone dressed “in all black” walking near the Pelosi home before hearing banging and then police sirens a few minutes later. Who cares about facts anyway?
Certainly not Donald Trump Jr., who is entertaining his Twitter followers with sick memes that make light of the attack. On Monday, Trump Jr. posted a photo captioned “Open Carry in San Francisco” that shows a hammer clipped to a person’s belt. “Ban all hammers,” Trump Jr. added. Haha.
The day before, he shared a photo of a pair of men’s briefs and a hammer, which was described as a “Paul Pelosi Halloween costume.” Get it?
You probably don’t unless you follow the world of right-wing hate sites and personalities so desperate for attention they’ll say anything to attack Democrats. Suffice it to say that in the online ecosystem, a false version of events laden with homophobic innuendos had spread so ferociously that by Monday San Francisco Dist. Atty. Brooke Jenkins in trying to dispel the lies had to describe what Paul Pelosi was wearing when he was awakened and attacked with an unusual level of specificity: “a loose fitting pajama shirt and boxer shorts.”
Then there are the cowards — like Rep. Clay Higgins, a Republican congressman from Louisiana, and Elon Musk, the world’s richest man who now owns Twitter — who tweeted and then deleted the false claims without taking responsibility for their role in spreading misinformation. In Musk’s case, that means spreading a baseless conspiracy to his more than 113 million followers.
It’s a week before the midterm election and partisans are working to fire up voters. But this isn’t politics as usual. The proper response to an attempted kidnapping of a national leader that results in a violent attack on her husband is swift condemnation. Anything less is vile and un-American.