Nancy Pelosi the speaker of the house smiling

Pressing Issues

There Aren’t Two Sides to Attempted Assassination

In the wake of David DePape's violent attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, legacy media is refusing to call it what it is: the second attempt to murder the second person in line for the presidency.

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Right-wing men want to murder Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They have wanted to kill her for years. They have talked about it, joked about it, written about it, broadcasted it. They want her to be humiliated, be hurt, to suffer. They want Nancy Pelosi killed dead.

Perhaps the only thing more shocking than the violent attack on her octogenarian husband, Paul, by a hammer-wielding Trump supporter who broke into the family home looking for her was corporate media’s deliberate oversight of the motive: the Right’s hatred for the female Speaker of the House.

In the days following the attack, our elite national press focused once again on “polarization.” On “toxic politics.” On the “country on edge.” On “extremism.” On “heightened political violence.” Editors and reporters refused to clearly name the right-wing animus against the second person in line to lead the country as a cause, even though the suspect himself posted anti-Pelosi screeds and demanded to see her during the break-in and assault. 

Axios, always on the lookout for a chance to blur the line between fact and GOP spin, immediately offered a platform for Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel’s complaint that it was unfair to blame her party’s rhetoric for the violent attack on Paul Pelosi.

The New York Times brought in unrelated “concerns about crime” into the discussion, implying that San Francisco was such a hotbed of lawbreaking that the attack could have happened to anyone. Other news organizations cited “bitter partisanship,” as though both major parties were equally at fault, and booked Republican men to talk about how “both sides” were culpable.

These stories deliberately obfuscate the very plain truth that the first female Speaker of the House, an enormously skilled politician and the most prominent Democrat in the legislative branch, has been the target of misogynist threats for years which have now culminated in an actual assassination attempt—in her home.

David DePape, the man who attacked Speaker Pelosi’s husband in their home, was not doing so out of concerns about “crime in San Francisco.” Nor was he facing economic frustration, isolation, or mental illness beyond a constant diet of GOP-backed media that told him Nancy Pelosi was the root of this country’s evil who must be destroyed.

DePape’s social media, a hotbed of Covid conspiracies, rage at the imaginary transgressions of LGBTQ people, racist rants keyed toward the nefarious plots of minorities against white people, displayed a top-to-bottom recitation of the touchstones of the party of Trump. Trump hated Pelosi and still spends outsize amounts of time at his rallies mocking her in very personal terms:

Echoing their leader, Republican politicians who weren’t downplaying the targeted nature of DePape’s attack continued to make chilling anti-Nancy jokes.

Their propaganda outlets called for audiences to bail out the attacker, or questioned the veracity of the story, whether the attack was even directed at the Speaker:

The nightmare at the Pelosis’ home recalled the horror-movie spectacle of armed men running through the breached U.S. Capitol, as insurrectionists tauntingly and threateningly yelled out the Speaker’s name:

Speaker Pelosi spent those same terrifying hours trying to make sure that Trump’s VP Mike Pence was safe and guide her fellow lawmakers’ escape from their attackers. She huddled together with both Republicans and Democrats, her only stated concern in video footage being the lives of her colleagues, their staff, and the staff of the building Trump’s crowd was attacking. 

Nancy Pelosi is only the latest target of the misogyny woven into the MAGA tapestry like a bloody thread. The Right set their sights on Hillary Clinton when she dared defy the cookie-baking, story-reading, stay-at-home-mom stereotype of America’s First Lady. The late Rush Limbaugh and his cohort of talk-show imitators made their fortunes selling Hillary nutcrackers and making nagging ex-wife jokes while supposedly objective journalists tittered along with the gag. 

Hillary Clinton’s presidential runs in 2008 and 2016 only intensified the hatred. Trump’s younger supporters were raised with that kind of vicious anti-woman political rhetoric as the backdrop to their childhoods, while their fathers guffawed along with talk-radio hosts demeaning any woman who dared to achieve anything in Democratic politics. 

During Trump’s chaotic presidency, many of his followers transferred their anti-Hillary rage to Nancy Pelosi, especially after she presided over two separate impeachment inquiries and took the reins of a Democratic president’s legislative efforts. Republican politicians and propaganda outlets framed the 2022 midterm elections  as an opportunity to stick it to Pelosi, that “San Francisco liberal” who needs to be knocked down, cut down to size, and taught a lesson.

Anyone covering politics for more than half an hour in this country has heard all of this firsthand, from the Republicans they cover to the supporters they overhear at rallies to the messages and emails and DMs they get from Trump supporters every time they publish. 

Editors and producers recognize that what happened to Pelosi is a manifestation of the deep, violent scorn for women stoked and nurtured by the GOP as they  attack abortion rights, birth control, childcare policies—anything traditionally regarded as “women’s issues.” 

The upper-echelon male producers, editors, and managers who overpopulate corporate media don’t see fit to identify misogyny as a cause of our current political divide, or name the party that deliberately stokes that misogyny. 

In fact the only mention of misogyny as a motive, as a driving theme of the Republican Party past and present, came from women-led media. Once again, it fell to women to explain what was happening to us, and to implore powerful men not to ignore the threats to powerful women. Male political commentators pivoted to attacking Vice-President Kamala Harris, also the first woman to hold her position, and no stranger herself to outsize ire from the American Right. 

If Nancy Pelosi could be “sent a message” with violence, if the most prominent woman in American politics is not safe in her own home, then no one is, and even America’s male political elite should be chilled by that warning.


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