With Falsehoods About Pelosi Attack, Republicans Mimic Trump

The former president has shown Republicans that there is no penalty — and possibly a reward — from voters for spreading false claims and insulting political opponents.

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With Falsehoods About Pelosi Attack, Republicans Mimic Trump | INFBusiness.com

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul, in 2019.

WASHINGTON — Speaking on a conservative radio talk show on Tuesday, former President Donald J. Trump amplified a conspiracy theory about the grisly attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, that falsely suggested that Mr. Pelosi may not have been the victim of a genuine attack.

“Weird things going on in that household in the last couple of weeks,” Mr. Trump said on the Chris Stigall show, winking at a lie that has flourished in right-wing media and is increasingly being given credence by Republicans. “The glass, it seems, was broken from the inside to the out — so it wasn’t a break-in, it was a break out.”

There is no evidence to suggest that. Mr. Pelosi, 82, was attacked on Friday with a hammer by a suspect who federal prosecutors say invaded the Pelosis’ San Francisco home, bent on kidnapping the speaker and shattering her kneecaps.

But Mr. Trump, a longtime trafficker in conspiracy theories who propelled his political rise with the lie that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, has never let such facts get in his way.

The reaction to the assault on Mr. Pelosi among Republicans — who have circulated conspiracy theories about it, dismissed it as an act of random violence and made the Pelosis the punchline of a dark joke — underscores how thoroughly the G.O.P. has internalized his example. It suggested that Republicans have come to conclude that, like Mr. Trump, they will pay no political price for attacks on their opponents, however meanspirited, inflammatory or false.

If anything, some Republicans seem to believe they will be rewarded by their right-wing base for such coarseness — or even suffer political consequences if they do not join in and show that they are in on the joke.

“LOL,” Representative Claudia Tenney, Republican of New York, who is up for re-election in a competitive district, tweeted on Friday night, circulating a photograph that showed a group of young, white men holding oversized hammers beside a gay Pride flag.

On Sunday, Representative Clay Higgins, Republican of Louisiana, who is in line to helm a Homeland Security subcommittee if his party wins control of the House next week, also amplified a groundless and homophobic conspiracy theory hatched on the right about the attack. He tweeted, but later removed, a picture of Ms. Pelosi with her hands covering her eyes, with the caption: “That moment you realize the nudist hippie male prostitute LSD guy was the reason your husband didn’t make it to your fundraiser.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he thought the federal complaint detailing the break-in and the attack was not telling the entire story.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Trump said suggestively. “You hear the same things I do.”

Mr. Pelosi, 82, remained in intensive care with a fractured skull, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In Arizona, the Republican candidate for governor, Kari Lake, made the attack a punchline at a campaign event on Monday, noting that while Ms. Pelosi has security around her, “apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection.” She smiled as her supporters howled with laughter.

Republican leaders have condemned the violence against Mr. Pelosi and have not shared the conspiracy theories or sinister memes, but they have not publicly condemned those who have done so or done anything to try to tamp down on the stream of lies. And over the past few years, they have consistently demonstrated to their colleagues in Congress that there are no consequences for making vitriolic or even violent statements.

If anything, such behavior has turned those more extreme members into influencers on the right, who carry more clout in Congress.

The intruder who attacked Mr. Pelosi had wanted to take Ms. Pelosi, whom he saw as “the ‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party,” hostage and break her kneecaps. He entered her San Francisco home with rope, zip ties and a hammer, according to the federal complaint against him.

There was a time when such an event would have led to unequivocal denunciation by the leaders of both parties, sometimes followed by a pause in the day-to-day mudslinging of a campaign — if only to ensure that no candidate would make a remark that could be construed as in any way offensive to the victim.

This time, few Republicans made such moves.

Former Vice President Mike Pence followed the old model, saying that the attack was an “outrage” and noting that “there can be no tolerance for violence against public officials or their families.” But what would have once been a run-of-the-mill statement stood out for being one of the few that was unqualified in its condemnation of the attacker, who Mr. Pence said should be prosecuted.

“They don’t have any fear of reprisal,” said Douglas Heye, a former Republican leadership aide on Capitol Hill. “That’s because our politics have become so tribal that anything that is about owning the other side is somehow seen as a political message, even though it’s not.

It is a page out of Mr. Trump’s playbook. For years, he elevated online rumors by speculating about them, bursting onto the national political scene in 2011 with the unfounded “birther” theory about Mr. Obama. When Mr. Trump insulted Senator John McCain of Arizona for being taken captive in Vietnam, his popularity among Republicans suffered no discernible hit.

The current crop of candidates and lawmakers who have grown in power through their allegiance to Mr. Trump have replicated his methods. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, tweeted that Mr. Pelosi was attacked by a “friend” and that the media was the source of disinformation. Her post has since been removed.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, recirculated a Twitter thread stating that “none of us will ever know for sure” what happened at Ms. Pelosi’s house and complaining that the attack was being cited as an “indictment of Republicans.”

Source: nytimes.com

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