Top Republicans reject any link between GOP rhetoric and Paul Pelosi assault
Two senior Republicans pushed back Sunday at Democratic assertions that heated GOP political rhetoric contributed to the brutal assault of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel called it “unfair” that Democrats would draw a direct line between her party’s villainizing of Pelosi and the Friday home invasion that left the speaker’s husband hospitalized. And National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who posted a video last week of himself firing a gun with the hashtag #FirePelosi, deflected a question about whether he should have used a weapon along with the hashtag.
Instead, Emmer sought to contrast the media’s treatment of the Pelosi attack with what he argued was a comparable lack of attention to the 2017 politically motivated shooting of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).
“I’m sure people like to talk about anything but what the Democrats have done to this country,” Emmer said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
The debate over political rhetoric’s role in the Paul Pelosi attack, the perpetrator of which steeped himself in online disinformation about fraud in the 2020 election and other conspiracy theories, dominated the airwaves Sunday. On both sides of the aisle, major players broadly condemned the violence — even as they openly disagreed on the root causes, with some Republicans arguing that Democratic policies played a role.
“You can’t say people saying ‘fire Pelosi’ or ‘take back the House’ is saying ‘go do violence.’ It’s just unfair,” McDaniel said on “Fox News Sunday.” She blamed the Paul Pelosi attack on rising crime that she sought to connect to Nancy Pelosi’s party: “If this weren’t Paul Pelosi, this criminal would probably be out on the street tomorrow … This is what Democrat policies are bringing.”
Pressed in a tense exchange by CBS host Margaret Brennan, Emmer said he disagreed with the idea that his “#FirePelosi” shooting video may have been suggestive or risky.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott, chair of the GOP’s Senate campaign arm, separately suggested on CNN that “horrible” violence was in part a result of lower public trust in elections. (Officials on both sides of the aisle, including Trump-era attorney general William Barr, have affirmed that President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory was not affected by widespread voter fraud.)
“Be poll watchers, so you can see that elections are going to be fair,” Scott told voters. He also cited the beating last week of a canvasser for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who did not initially say he believed the attack was political but revised that in later reports.
Poll watching is not a new a practice, but it’s increasingly on the rise among conservatives and has been described as disruptive by some election officials in this cycle. Scott then called out former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams for suggesting Republicans are undermining elections.
The assailant, David DePape, broke into the Pelosi family’s San Francisco home early Friday morning and attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer, San Francisco police said. He called out “where’s Nancy?” during the invasion, according to police.
San Francisco Police Chief William Scott described the attack as “not a random act,” but police have not yet detailed a motive. DePape had zip ties with him when he entered the Pelosi home, according to a person briefed on the investigation, an element first reported by CNN.
For three days running, Republicans have fielded Democratic fury that the attack on the House speaker’s husband was related to their incendiary rhetoric — and laser focus on Nancy Pelosi. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) connected the violence to election denialism and intimidation on Sunday, saying too many Republicans have failed to speak up about the issue.
“[Nancy Pelosi] has been villainized for years, and — big surprise — it’s gone viral, and it went violent,” Klobuchar said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
New Twitter owner Elon Musk posted disinformation about the Paul Pelosi attack on Sunday morning, adding new heft to Democratic worries about whether false claims might gain a foothold on the platform under Musk’s ownership. Later in the day, Musk deleted the tweet.
Asked whether the attack means Republicans should tamp down their rhetoric in attack ads leading up to next week’s midterm elections, Gov. Chris Sununu (R-N.H.) said, “I don’t think there’s any need for the attack ads.”
“Ignore the elections. She’s going to get reelected fine,” Sununu said on NBC. “I mean, let’s just make sure that she and her family are safe.” Security should be extended to other members of Congress as well, Sununu said.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) noted that former President Donald Trump has not yet publicly condemned the attack on Paul Pelosi.
“All of us in the wake of this attack on Paul Pelosi need to say that we’re going to stop demonizing folks,” Coons said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Violent rhetoric “can lead to violence by small number of Americans who think when we describe our political opponents as our enemies, we’re calling for them to be attacked,” he added.
Notably, one retiring Republican serving on the Jan. 6 select committee aligned with Democrats in directly connecting the attack to ideas pushed by fellow members of his party.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who has frequently broken with the rest of the GOP in speaking out against election denial, wrote on Twitter Friday: “[W]hen you convince people that politicians are rigging elections, drink babies blood, etc, you will get violence” — a reference to conspiracy theories embraced by some on the far right.
Kinzinger also called out House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for his relatively muted public response to the attack, and said every Republican candidate and official should “speak out.”
Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.
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