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Is the Man Who Attacked Paul Pelosi a Leftist?

Some on the far right are sure of it—along with lots of other things that are demonstrably untrue.
November 7, 2022
Is the Man Who Attacked Paul Pelosi a Leftist?
(Composite / Shutterstock)

Right-wing media outlets are pushing back hard against accusations that there is some sort of connection between the forces that precipitated the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and the savage attack on Paul Pelosi, the 82-year-old husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, by a man with a hammer.

“Did the assailant have anything in common with those people—either the mob responsible or the federal agents or agent provocateurs that initiated it?” wrote Joseph Farah, the founder and CEO of WND (formerly WorldNetDaily), a right-wing news and opinion website that’s partial to conspiracy theories. “He had nothing in common with ‘MAGA Republicans.”

Farah was reacting to President Joe Biden’s effort, in his primetime address to the nation on November 2, to link the recent attack by David DePape to last year’s Capitol riot. He stated that DePape entered the Pelosi residence saying “Where’s Nancy?”, an echo of what rioters who attacked the Capitol shouted as they swarmed the halls outside congressional offices after attacking police officers and erecting a gallows to hang Mike Pence.

Turning Biden’s account on its head, Farah argued that responsibility for the Jan. 6th attack rested not with MAGA Republicans but with—are you ready for this?—Nancy Pelosi. This is what he wrote:

Had [Trump’s] strong warnings been heeded to have enough National Guardsmen in position, or even had the Capitol Police fully mobilized, things would have been different. But Nancy Pelosi, who was in charge of the debacle, didn’t listen to Trump. That was the cause of Jan. 6. There were not enough police. At some point they opened the doors. In the mayhem one person died—Ashli Babbitt, a peaceful Trump supporter and military veteran, killed by a policeman’s bullet.

Oh, the shame of it—Nancy Pelosi, causing all this mayhem!

In his address, the president pointed out that more than 300 election deniers were on ballots for the November 8 election. “We can’t ignore the impact this is having on our country. It’s damaging, it’s corrosive, and it’s destructive,” Biden said.

Farah’s response:

There were a lot of Americans who were angry about the rigged election—probably at least 74 million. It’s surprising that only 300 got on the next ballot. Biden doesn’t want them to have a chance to regather themselves and save their country from his two years of tyranny and incompetence. He just wants to punish Trump and his MAGA movement, the largest movement I’ve ever seen standing up for America.

He went on to call Biden “an election impostor, a fraudulent ‘president,’ and just another liar who doesn’t know when to stop talking.”

Look who’s not stopped talking.

Almost immediately after the October 28 attack on Pelosi, the right-wing echo chamber began to resonate with crackpot theories about the two men being gay lovers. As these claims have faded in the face of their obvious implausibility, they are being supplanted with accusations that responsibility for the attack rests solely on the shoulders of Democrats, for having engineered the crime wave that has turned the nation’s streets into rivers of blood.

“People are being hit with hammers every day,” proclaimed Fox News wag Jesse Watters. “People are being pushed into subways, slashed, shot in cold blood, but the media focuses on this one single crime to pin it on Republicans?” He elaborated: “People in San Francisco were smashing people in the head every day, and they get bailed out, and they don’t get hit with attempted murder charges. Maybe they get sentenced to two years of restorative justice.”

Meanwhile, over at Breitbart News, senior writer John Nolte recently laid out “the six reasons why the media’s attempt to frame us for whatever happened to Paul Pelosi has so spectacularly failed.” Among the reasons: “Nobody Believes The Media Anymore,” “Did I Mention No One Believes the Media Anymore?”, and “Paul Pelosi’s Alleged Attack [sic] Is—LOL— a Leftist.”

DePape, Nolte reported, “is a Berkeley nudist living in a compound that flies the gay flag and Black Lives Matter banners.” He is also “an illegal alien taking advantage of California’s sanctuary policies.” Indeed, he wrote. “[I]f this guy were indeed MAGA, he would have deported himself.”

That’s an amusing line. But let’s take a closer look at these assertions.

According to a report on NBC News, DePape, 42, may have been living in a bus parked in the driveway of a San Francisco residence where “a sign that said ‘Black Lives Matter’ could be seen hanging in a window” and a flag with pride rainbow–colored stripes and a marijuana leaf in the canton flapped from a tree in the front yard.

There is no reason to believe DePape had anything to do with putting either of those things there.

DePape, a Canadian citizen, was in the United States illegally, having long overstayed the typical six-month visitation limit in place for our neighbors to the north. He could, at the end of any prison sentence he receives, be deported. And, as the Washington Post reported, DePape “was known in Berkeley as a pro-nudity activist who had picketed naked at protests against local ordinances requiring people to be clothed in public.”

But none of this says anything about his political ideology. Being a nudist does not make one a leftist any more than being a swinger and using personal ads to solicit trysts with other couples and “muscular well-hung single men” makes Trump confidant Roger Stone a Democrat. In fact, the ideas that motivated DePape are hardly a mystery. He is a pro-Trump, QAnon conspiracy-supporting, stone-cold racist.

DePape, or someone posting comments using his name, the Post said, “repeated false claims about COVID vaccines and wearing masks, questioned whether climate change is real and displayed an illustration of a zombified Hillary Clinton dining on human flesh”—all of which would put him in what is now the Republican mainstream.

The Post, in a separate article, said it had “corroborated that a voluminous blog written under DePape’s name and filled with deeply racist and antisemitic writings—as well as pro-Trump and anti-Democratic posts—belonged to the suspect.” In a September 27 post that appears under his name, DePape mused that journalists who contradict Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud in 2020 “should be dragged straight out into the street and shot.” In August, he published a blog post titled “Hitler did nothing wrong.”

Does any of this sound like it’s coming from “LOL—a Leftist”?

Moreover, it is not hippies and Black Lives Matter protesters who have made Nancy Pelosi a target. It is players like the Republican National Committee, which in 2009 ran an ad in which Pelosi’s face is framed by the barrel of a gun, which is then fired as red bleeds down the screen. Or Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who in 2019 liked a Facebook comment that advocated that Pelosi receive “a bullet to the head.” She has also declared that Pelosi is “guilty of treason,” which happens to be “a crime punishable by death.”

Former Secretary of State and presidential contender Hillary Clinton, who knows a thing or two about being vilified, expressed it well in a tweet: “The Republican Party and its mouthpieces now regularly spread hate and deranged conspiracy theories. It is shocking, but not surprising, that violence is the result.”

DePape told police he went to the Pelosi residence to “talk to her” and, if he detected any lies, to break her kneecaps so “she would then have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other members of Congress there were consequences to actions.”

If he had posted this to Facebook, Marjorie Taylor Greene might have liked it.

Despite all of this, the almost universal reaction of the right has been to proclaim its innocence of any possible blame for the attack on Paul Pelosi and to heap venom on Biden for suggesting there was.

“Biden warned that his ‘reckless rhetoric’ is inciting ‘violence’” declared a WND news story headline. The article quotes an opinion piece by Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, chiding Biden for his November 2 address, which he said amounted to “doubling down” on “his earlier claim that his political opponents are fascists seeking to establish authoritarianism in the United States.”

According to Turley, “the likely effect” of such efforts by Biden and others “will be to incite further violence and to give license to the most unhinged in our society.”

Will those Democrats never stop inciting violence?

We have arrived at last to where reality has become not just indiscernible but also irrelevant to a vast swath of the American public. The man who attacked Paul Pelosi, who defends Hitler, backs Trump, and shares the GOP’s kookiest notions about stolen elections is declared to be some sort of hippie-dippy leftist. The president who warns about the toll of lies and inducements to violence is himself accused of lying and inciting violence.

The toxins that Trump and his party have worked so hard to spread have deeply infected the body politic. They will remain with us for many years to come.

Bill Lueders

Bill Lueders, former editor and now editor-at-large of The Progressive, is a writer in Madison, Wisconsin.