Republicans respond to Paul Pelosi attack with mockery and sincerity

Respectful reactions from GOP congressional leaders contrast with ugly mockery from right-wingers

John Bowden
Washington DC
Sunday 30 October 2022 19:13 GMT
Dispatch call reveals how Paul Pelosi secretly alerted authorities to attack

A wide range of GOP reactions to the violent assault of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in their home is showing the deep fractures that remain throughout the Republican Party.

Adding to the issue’s complexity is new reporting suggesting that the suspect involved in the attack was a follower of right-wing conspiracy theories, leading many who spread and embrace similar fantasies to reject the incident as a hoax or “false flag” event.

In Washington, congressional leaders responded with the typical shock and outrage that you’d expect members of the House and Senate to show after a violent attack that clearly targeted one of their own.

“Horrified and disgusted by the reports that Paul Pelosi was assaulted in his and Speaker Pelosi's home last night,” wrote Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday. “Grateful to hear that Paul is on track to make a full recovery and that law enforcement including our stellar Capitol Police are on the case.”

And in the House, GOP leader Kevin McCarthy addressed the issue during an interview with right-wing blog Breitbart — though only after facing criticism for not doing so publicly.

“We’ve watched this with Lee Zeldin, we’ve watched this with Supreme Court justices, this is wrong — violence should not go. You watch what happened to Steve Scalise and others. This has got to stop,” he added, referencing two incidents in which GOP politicians were attacked including the 2017 shooting at the congressional baseball game.

But GOP leadership in Congress is where the respectful responses both began and ended. Former President Donald Trump, widely regarded as the de facto leader of the party, said nothing about the attack either through Truth Social statements or those released through his Save America PAC. Many other GOP politicians on Capitol Hill followed suit, particularly those on the far-right, with the notable exceptions of the two Republicans serving on the January 6 committee.

“Reports about the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi are horrific and deeply troubling. My family and I are praying for his recovery,” wrote Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

And her colleague, Adam Kinzinger, called it “disgusting” during a CNN interview:

While the pair was able to call out the connection between the attack and the conspiracy theories that have infested mainstream politics on the American right, others in their party sought to downplay those connections — or, in the case of GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, ignore them entirely.

“You can't say [that] people saying 'let's fire Pelosi' or saying ‘let’s take back the House’ are saying ‘go do violence’,” she argued on Fox News.

Her comments ignore the reality: A member of her own party, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, remains stripped of her committee membership for her past comments endorsing violence against Ms Pelosi personally. In one example, the Georgia congresswoman liked a July 2019 Facebook reply from an individual who quipped that a “bullet to the head” would be an acceptable way to remove the Democratic Speaker of the House from office. The congresswoman has claimed that her page was at the time controlled by aides who would sometimes “like” content that didn’t reflect her views.

Ms Greene herself said that she was “praying” for Mr Pelosi, but faced accusations of insincerity.

Sen Rand Paul was somewhat respectful in his statement, while taking the opportunity to chastise Ms Pelosi’s daughter for tweeting approvingly after he was assaulted by a neighbor.

“No one deserves to be assaulted. Unlike Nancy Pelosi’s daughter who celebrated my assault, I condemn this attack and wish Mr. Pelosi a speedy recovery,” he tweeted.

Outside of Congress, the barriers of civility evaporated quickly.

The clearest example came from Wendy Rogers, a state senator from Arizona, who mockingly tweeted an image of a bloody hammer and a fake Amazon posting that insinuated the attack was a hoax.

Virginia’s governor Glenn Youngkin was also roundly criticised after a sort-of condemnation of the attack at a rally for a House candidate devolved into a political attack aimed at the Speaker.

“Speaker Pelosi’s husband had a break-in last night in their house, and he was assaulted. There’s no room for violence anywhere, but we’re gonna send her back to be with him in California. That’s what we’re going to go do,” he told the crowd.

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