Paul Pelosi, the 82-year-old husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked by an intruder with a hammer in the couple’s San Francisco home in the early morning hours of Oct. 28.
Following the attack, Pelosi needed surgery “to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands,” and the incident was considered the result of violent rhetoric used by Republicans to demonize their political opponents.
But instead of showing remorse for the angry tone used to divide American, conservative political activists responded with false claims and innuendos about the attack that have flooded social media, adding to a deepening well of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
Elon Musk, for example, tweeted and then deleted a link to a story on a dubious website that baselessly suggested DePape was a prostitute. The claim then trended on Twitter, according to Ben Collins, who covers disinformation and extremism for NBC.
Donald Trump Jr. also promoted the completely unfounded claim. He posted — and later deleted — a sexually explicit cartoon image on Instagram and included a message that said: “Dear fact checkers this has nothing at all to do with anything going on in the news and simply posting a cartoon of what appears to be an altered South Park scene.”
But his 6.2 million followers showed their understanding of the post in the comments, saying things such as, “I dunno man, it doesn’t appear altered.. looks like a still from the Pelosis security cam to me.”
Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza posted a more suggestive claim on Twitter, asking: “How did Pelosi know his attacker’s name? He told the police the assailant’s name was ‘David.’ He also said David was his ‘friend.’ This is on the police recording and you can listen to it yourself. So how do you explain these two telling facts?”
Any suggestion that Pelosi hired DePape as a prostitute or that Pelosi knew him in any capacity is false.
Robert Rueca, spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department, said that officers found no “evidence that shows that the victim and the suspect knew each other.”
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins had said the same thing in a local TV news interview on Oct 30.
And DePape himself told FBI officers in a recorded interview that he had broken into the home with the intention of holding Nancy Pelosi hostage and breaking her kneecaps if she “lied” to him. He wasn’t there for Paul Pelosi.