Saturday, September 30, 2023

Republicans Demonized Nancy Pelosi Long Before Attacking Her Husband

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Shreya Christina
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Friday’s brutal attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul Pelosi at their San Francisco home was overtly political — and a logical endpoint to the decades-long personal villainy that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has endured from her political opponents.

It is now clear that the speaker was the target of Friday’s attack. The attacker broke into the house looking for her, reportedly yelling, “Where’s Nancy?” — echoing the chants insurgents shouted as they breached the US Capitol on Jan. 6 — saying he would wait “until Nancy came home” while trying to tie up Paul Pelosi. The speaker’s husband suffered a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands that required surgery after the attacker beat him to death with a hammer. (A spokesperson for the speaker said in a pronunciation that Paul Pelosi is expected to make a full recovery.)

Even before she became a speaker, Republicans in the party, and those sitting next to it, have demonized Pelosi, regularly featuring her in assault ads and making fun of her on Fox News. At least one of her colleagues in the House, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), has directly expressed support for violence against her. And members of right-wing militia groups like the Oathkeepers and the Three Percenters have… sought her murder.

Police did not elaborate on the attacker’s motivations, but his… Facebook posts about conspiracy theories surrounding Covid-19 vaccines, the 2020 elections and the January 6 attack provide a glimpse into his radicalization. Other blog posts under his name contains screeds against minorities, politicians, women and global elites, and content related to: QAnon – the false pro-Trump conspiracy theory that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles, including prominent Democrats like Pelosi, runs the world.

None of those posts specifically refer to Pelosi, but they all intersect with the ways she’s been a known target from the right — and not just on the political fringe.

The Long History of the Republicans Representing Nancy Pelosi. demonize

Pelosi has been reviled by Republicans since she first ascended to Democratic leadership.

In 2003, just days after her election as minority leader in the House, she quickly faced gender-based attacks from Republicans who, as Mark Z. Barabak wrote for the Los Angeles Times on time: “eager to attack Pelosi like a lazy San Francisco liberal and exploit her city’s reputation as America’s strange sock drawer. Within days, her face appeared — gaudy and twisted — in an assault ad knocking the Democrat down in a Louisiana House race. (He won anyway.) She popped up as Miss America, complete with tiara, in a parody of Rush Limbaugh’s website.”

Such attacks continued throughout her tenure as minority leader, including during the 2006 elections when Republicans ran a series of attack ads with unflattering photos of Pelosi often looking angry, startled, or startled. And they increased in 2010, after she became a speaker. Republicans made her the face of their attacks on Democrats’ Affordable Care Act and launched a “Fire Pelosi” campaign, which saw a bus tour and images of Pelosi go up in flames.

Under the Trump era and in subsequent years, the attacks only escalated in tenor. Former President Donald Trump, who has remained silent about the attack on Paul Pelosi, shared manipulated videos of the speaker designed to question her mental fitness, retweeted allegations that she “drinking alcohol at work,” and had a slew of derogatory nicknames for her, including “Crazy Nancy”, “Nervous Nancy” and “Nancy Antoinette.”

Many of Trump’s followers echoed his rhetoric online and in conservative media such as Fox News. In 2021, Fox News host Mark Levin called her “annoying old bag – that’s what she is, a vile, vile, unhinged fool” who “hates Trump” and “can’t get Trump out of her head.”

Rhetoric about Pelosi has also often taken violent turns. In 2018 and 2019, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) repeatedly seemed to suggest support before Pelosi’s execution, in addition to those of other prominent Democrats, liking a Facebook post stating that “a bullet to the head” would be the most appropriate way to end Pelosi’s speech. Taylor Greene also claimed in a Facebook video that Pelosi was guilty of treason, noting that “a crime punishable by death is what treason is.”

A candidate in the GOP primary for the Arizona Senate aired this year a Super Bowl ad in which he dressed as a sheriff who shot an actor who played Pelosi, identified as “Crazy Face Pelosi,” after saying, “The good people of Arizona have had enough of you.” In the period since Labor Day, Republicans have reportedly nearly $40 million on advertisements mentioning Pelosi.

Even on Friday, just hours after the attack, Glenn Youngkin, Virginia’s Republican leader, linked the attack on Pelosi’s husband to the November election. called the comments insensitive.

“There is no place for violence anywhere, but we are going [Pelosi] back to be with him in California,” Youngkin said at a campaign rally in Stafford for GOP congressional candidate Yesli Vega.

Fox News anchors have also tried, in the meantime, to link the attack to the Republicans’ message about crime. “This can happen anywhere. Crime is random and that’s why it’s such an important part of this election story,” Fox anchor Bill Hemmer said on the air Friday.

Pelosi’s slander has taken on an even uglier form online in far-right circles. Some on Trump’s social media platform Truth Social have openly celebrated Friday’s attack, using the hashtag #PelosiCrimeFamily over the weekend.

No doubt the current poison targeting Pelosi would not exist without the decades of Republican vitriol against her. President Joe Biden made that connection explicit at a fundraising dinner Friday in Philadelphia, saying that political violence is the natural result of the kind of rhetoric that Republicans have enabled. “Why do we think it won’t affect the political climate?” he asked.

Misogyny, anti-elitism and anti-democratic ideas play a major role in attacks on Pelosi

As the House’s first female speaker, and one who serves at a time of increasing political polarization and anti-democratic violence, Pelosi has faced uniquely intense attacks that have channeled right-wing anger at her gender, wealth and pro-democracy rhetoric.

Even when she first ran for Congress, Republicans tried to portray her as not being serious “liberal dilettante” and “airhead” – offends that ring of sexism.

In 2007, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh mocked her election to the speakers: “This is a triumph of feminism and estrogen. …And ladies, the long national nightmare of 200 years without a woman at the top is now over.” In 2009, Democrats accused Republicans of promoting an outdated attitude toward women when they ran an ad suggesting that Pelosi should be “put her in her placeon the issue of Afghanistan. And in 2014, a Republican member suggested that she “might want to try” her research on the border, comments her Democratic colleagues considered condescending and sexist.

Pelosi doesn’t talk much about her gender, but has on occasion pointed to the disparate treatment and unique attacks she has faced as a woman in congressional leadership. For example, amid questions in 2014 about her age and whether she should hand over the mantle to a successor, she said replied: that then-Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who is only two years her junior, should be asking similar questions. And in 2018, after she was demonized by Trump and the GOP and still won the speakership, she told CNBC“I don’t want women to think that if you’re attacked, you run away.”

The attacks on Pelosi over the years have also targeted her wealth. On the right, there has long been harsh criticism of “elites,” often fueled by Fox News; Increasingly, as my colleague Andrew Prokop recently explained, influential members of the right are claiming that “the elite left-wing ‘ruling class’ has conquered and is ruining America, and that drastic action is needed to fight back against them.”

For many – including a January 6 rioter and recruiter for the anti-government movement The three percentra — Pelosi is the face of that”badruling class. And she has often been attacked as one of the most hypocritical members of that class. She is faced with criticism for initially rejecting the idea that members of Congress and their family members should not be allowed to trade stocks, despite having access to confidential information.

It’s a criticism that has been particularly intense, considering she is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with an estimated net worth of at least $46 million, and that fortune has grown in part thanks to lucrative trades from Paul Pelosi, a venture capitalist. She later passed legislation that would make it more difficult for members of Congress to use information they receive at work for their own financial gain, but it currently seems unlikely to pass.

Ironically, Trump attacked Pelosi a number of times for her wealth and elite status, perhaps most notably trying to use her wealth to portray her as contactless in a Campaign Ad 2020 as she ridiculed her expensive fridge filled with ice as Americans went hungry during the Covid-related economic downturn.

Both the sexist and anti-elite attack lines have contributed directly to the anti-democratic attacks that have recently overshadowed the rest. She was a top target during the January 6 uprising, when the mob tore up her office, shouted her name and searched for her. Rioters, emboldened by Trump’s lie that the 2020 election had been stolen from him, left no doubt what they would have done to her: “We’ve done our part. We were looking for Nancy to shoot her in the brain. But we didn’t find her,’ said a woman in a selfie video.

After the uprising was crushed, Pelosi stated that “Democracy has won.” But it’s clear that pro-Trump extremists like the man who broke into her house on Friday don’t want to give up the fight.


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