The Collin County Republican Party’s executive director has dismissed criticism after the party’s Facebook page posted a meme mocking a violent attack on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
On Friday, David DePape, 42, allegedly entered Pelosi’s San Francisco home in search of the Democratic politician and ended up attacking her husband, 82-year-old Paul Pelosi, with a hammer.
Paul Pelosi suffered a skull fracture and injuries to his hands and right arm. DePape has since been charged with attempted murder and attempted kidnapping of a U.S. official. (He’d allegedly intended to kidnap Nancy Pelosi.)
As right-wing figures spread conspiracy theories and misinformation over the attack, the Collin County Republican Party jumped into the fray. In a Facebook post Monday, the party shared a meme that showed a hammer holstered to a person’s waist with the caption, “Open carry in San Francisco.”
People responded with comments that the post was inappropriate. “How disgusting,” one person wrote. “Y’all should be ashamed of yourselves.” The group responded to the criticism in the comments, “Looks like we’ve struck a chord with either some Facebook bots or highly sensitive leftists.”
Reached for comment by phone Tuesday, Terry Wade, executive director of the Collin County Republican Party, seemed to buy into some of the conspiracy theories and misinformation about the attack; she also dismissed criticism about the meme, making light of it. She said she hadn’t seen the meme, but complained that Democrats haven’t been held accountable for similar rhetoric against Republicans.
“I think it’s just a continuation of a really violent, dangerous rhetoric that they’ve had for years at this point.” – Caroline Werner, Collin County Democratic Party
“Did you reach out to [Congresswoman] Maxine Waters when she was attacking conservatives?” Wade said. “You know, my concern is that there’s not equal representation. There’s not equal angst when, you know, the right is attacked compared to the left being, quote, unquote, attacked.”
Asked for examples, Wade said it was our homework to look into it. In the past, some pundits have claimed that traditional media outlets gave Waters a pass on some of her rhetoric against former President Donald Trump’s administration. For instance, she called on people to confront Trump’s cabinet members and “tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
(The Observer has never reached out to Waters, mostly because she represents a district about 1,450 miles west of Dallas. A better comparison may be the attack on House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, in 2017. At the time, House Speaker Pelosi condemned the attack, calling it “despicable and cowardly.” The assailant was a man in his 60s who had volunteered for Bernie Sanders when he was on the campaign trail, according to Time. He also had a history of sending letters to the media in support of Democratic policies.)
Wade questioned how DePape could enter the Pelosi home, suggesting security should have been able to prevent this. She made the false claim that both DePape and Paul Pelosi were in their underwear.
“Where’s the security on such a high profile family?” Wade said. “I find that kind of hard to believe – that two men in their underwear … How did that come about?”
When we pointed out that this claim wasn’t true, she asked if we’d seen what Fox News was saying about it. (A Fox News affiliate issued a correction to an article about the attack after falsely claiming that DePape was in his underwear.)
Wade then said she didn’t really have any further comment, just that her concern is that both sides get fair coverage. “I don’t feel like the mainstream media does a fair job of representing the truth,” Wade said. “It’s unfortunate. If he was attacked, that’s unfortunate. Nobody wants something like that to happen. But I also don’t believe that we have all the facts in this case.”
Here are the facts we have so far.
DePape allegedly broke in through a glass door of the Pelosi home and made his way up to the bedroom to find Paul Pelosi, according to CNN.
Interim San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said at a press conference Monday that’s when DePape woke Paul Pelosi up, asking where his wife was. According to Jenkins, Paul Pelosi then tried to get to an elevator in the house. He eventually asked DePape if he could use the bathroom. Inside the bathroom, Paul Pelosi called 911.
Sources told the Los Angeles Times that Paul Pelosi left the line open to try to signal to the 911 dispatch what was happening. Heather Grives, the dispatcher, relayed some of what she heard on the call to police, who would arrive minutes later.
“There’s a male in the home and that he’s going to wait for his wife,” the dispatcher told police, according to the Los Angeles Times. They then told police the man who called “doesn’t know who the male is, but he advised that his name is David and then [said] he is a friend.” She also said the caller sounded confused.
According to the arrest affidavit, the police found Paul Pelosi and DePape at the home when they arrived.
“When the door was opened, Pelosi and DePape were both holding a hammer with one hand and DePape had his other hand holding onto Pelosi’s forearm,” the affidavit said. “Pelosi greeted the officers. The officers asked them what was going on. DePape responded that everything was good. Officers then asked Pelosi and DePape to drop the hammer.”
“If he was attacked, that’s unfortunate.” – Terry Wade, Collin County Republican Party
That’s when DePape allegedly pulled the hammer away from Paul Pelosi and struck his head. After the hit, Paul Pelosi “appeared to be unconscious on the ground,” according to the affidavit. Police then apprehended DePape, and Paul Pelosi was taken to the hospital for his injuries. He reportedly had a skull fracture and serious injuries to his hands and right arm.
DePape told police he was there for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with plans to take her hostage and talk to her. If she told him the truth, he would let her go. If she lied, he would break her kneecaps. He also told police Nancy Pelosi was the “leader of the pack” of Democratic Party lies and that he was sure she wouldn’t tell him the truth. Police found that DePape had brought zip ties, tape, rope and at least one hammer to the break in.
News outlets have reported that a blog believed to belong to DePape features posts expressing far-right political views like Holocaust denialism and the idea that the last election was stolen from Trump. But right-wing figures have shared and made comments that seem to downplay the attack and muddy the waters of what we know about it.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz shared a post by the far-right podcaster and self-described “theocratic fascist” Matt Walsh suggesting “none of us will ever know for sure” what happened during the Pelosi home break-in. Walsh’s post also said it was absurd to suggest the attacker was motivated by right-wing political rhetoric.
This came as Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, shared a link to an article falsely claiming Friday’s attack was the result of a dispute between Paul Pelosi and a male sex worker. This fabrication came from a site that falsely claimed in 2016 that the Hillary Clinton seen on the campaign trail was a body double and the real Hillary Clinton was dead.
Musk later deleted his post that shared the article. On the website in place of the false article about the Pelosi attack is a retraction with an update. It reads, “The original version of this article, which I presented as opinion and not a statement of proven facts, has been removed from our website at the request of the prosecutor’s office.”
Caroline Werner, Collin County Democratic chair, told the Observer she wasn’t surprised by Republicans’ response to the Pelosi attack. “I think it’s just a continuation of a really violent, dangerous rhetoric that they’ve had for years at this point,” Werner said.
Werner cited a fundraising letter sent out by Gov. Greg Abbott days before the El Paso mass shooting that supported the need to defend the country from illegal immigration. The El Paso shooter’s hate-filled manifesto mentioned the need to end a “Hispanic invasion,” according to The Texas Tribune.
“I think this is something that’s been happening, and it’s going to continue to happen if the Republicans don’t tamp down the violence that they’re advocating for,” Werner said. “I’m disappointed that it continues to happen, that we continue to see them brushing things off as a joke. I’m not surprised, but I’m disappointed because I was hoping they would be better than that.”