A decade of vilifying the House speaker
The conspiracy theory is one way some conservatives are deflecting claims that the event was motivated by anti-Nancy Pelosi rhetoric. Many conservatives, including on Fox News, have framed the event as a random act, not as potential political violence. Others blamed both sides for raising the temperature in America.
For Republicans to consider the possibility that the perpetrator was committing an act of political violence would require some reckoning with their yearslong anti-Pelosi campaign.
In 2014 and 2016, Republicans featured Pelosi in 13 percent and 9 percent of their attack ads, according to an analysis by Kantar Media.
Only two days before the attack, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., posted a video of himself firing a rifle with the caption: “13 days to make history. Let’s #FirePelosi.” In response to questions from CBS “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan on Sunday, Emmer denied the post could be an incitement to violence.
Women in politics face more threats than men running for office, according to multiple indicators. Other data indicates that women are being targeted globally for physical violence as well. And, as the first female speaker, Pelosi has long faced gendered attacks.
The alleged attacker posted misogynistic memes on social media for years.
Many Republican lawmakers condemned the physical attack on the Pelosi residence, but some also took to the airwaves over the weekend seeking to spread the blame for the event on both sides of the aisle.
“[Pelosi] is demonized, as is Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, and I’m sure Kevin McCarthy when he becomes speaker will be demonized,” Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said Saturday on CNN. “It’s a terrible environment, and I believe people in both parties are guilty of intense rhetoric that really leads to — feed into these people who are deranged and create violence.”
Democrats including Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), noted the silence of former president Donald Trump, whose rhetoric fanned the flames of conservative contempt for Pelosi for years.
“President Biden and Democrats have stood behind law enforcement and strengthening protections for those in public life,” Coons said on Fox News. “That’s what I think we should be focusing on in this moment, when leaders of both parties — but so far not President Trump — have decried the attack on Paul Pelosi.”
The Washington Post Editorial Board weighed in on the attack on Friday, arguing “it is incumbent on politicians — regardless of party — to condemn anything resembling political violence.”
— Steve Reilly, Leah Askarinam