Politics

How Republicans Fed a Misinformation Loop About the Pelosi Attack

WASHINGTON — Within hours of the brutal assault final month on Paul Pelosi, the husband of the speaker of the House, activists and media retailers on the proper started circulating groundless claims — almost all of them sinister, and lots of homophobic — casting doubt on what had occurred.

Some Republican officers shortly joined in, speeding to counsel that the bludgeoning of an octogenarian by a suspect obsessive about right-wing conspiracy theories was one thing else altogether, dismissing it as an inside job, a lover’s quarrel or worse.

The misinformation got here from all ranges of Republican politics. A U.S. senator circulated the view that “none of us will ever know” what actually occurred at the Pelosis’ San Francisco dwelling. A senior Republican congressman referred to the attacker as a “nudist hippie male prostitute,” baselessly asserting that the suspect had a personal relationship with Mr. Pelosi. Former President Donald J. Trump questioned whether or not the assault might need been staged.

The world’s richest man helped amplify the tales. But none of it was true.

Here are 21 of the elected officers, candidates and different distinguished figures who unfold misinformation or cast doubt on the assault.

In tweets, podcasts and TV appearances, these figures questioned whether or not the public was being informed the full story of what occurred and in some instances unfold theories that have been unfounded.

Elected officers and candidates

Senator Ted Cruz

Republican of Texas

Amplified doubts that each one info have been being disclosed.

Photo of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene

Republican of Georgia

Suggested Mr. Pelosi knew his attacker.

Photo of Representative Clay Higgins

Representative Clay Higgins

Republican of Louisiana

Suggested the assault concerned male prostitution.

Photo of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson

Republican of North Carolina

Raised doubts about the particulars of the assault.

Photo of Mary Williams Benefield

Mary Williams Benefield

Republican statehouse candidate, Georgia

Suggested the assault might need been staged.

Photo of Royce White

Royce White

Republican statehouse candidate, Minnesota

Claimed the assault concerned an extramarital homosexual affair.

Photo of State Senator Wendy Rogers

State Senator Wendy Rogers

Republican of Arizona

Suggested the assault might need been staged.

Photo of State Representative Anthony Sabatini

State Representative Anthony Sabatini

Republican of Florida

Suggested that the Pelosis are hiding very important data.

Photo of Representative Claudia Tenney

Representative Claudia Tenney

Republican of New York

Amplified a conspiracy principle about an extramarital homosexual affair.

Prominent figures

Photo of Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck

Conservative commentator

Raised doubts about the particulars of the assault.

Photo of Tucker Carlson

Tucker Carlson

Fox News host

Raised doubts about the particulars of the assault.

Photo of Dinesh D’Souza

Dinesh D’Souza

Conservative commentator

Claimed the assault concerned an extramarital homosexual affair.

Photo of Ryan Fournier

Ryan Fournier

Founder, Students for Trump

Claimed particulars about the attacker have been fabricated.

Photo of Sebastian Gorka

Sebastian Gorka

Former Trump adviser and podcast host

Raised doubts about the particulars of the assault.

Photo of Pete Hegseth

Pete Hegseth

Fox News host

Raised doubts that each one info have been being disclosed.

Photo of Megyn Kelly

Megyn Kelly

Talk present host

Raised doubts that each one info have been being disclosed.

Photo of Elon Musk

Elon Musk

Chief government of Twitter and Tesla

Amplified a conspiracy principle about male prostitution.

Photo of Devin Nunes

Devin Nunes

Former consultant of California

Repeated a false report that the attacker was in his underwear.

Photo of Michael Savage

Michael Savage

Talk present host

Raised doubts that each one info have been being disclosed.

Photo of Roger Stone

Roger Stone

Trump affiliate

Suggested the assault was staged.

Photo of Donald J. Trump

Donald J. Trump

Former president

Suggested the assault was staged.

The flood of falsehoods confirmed how ingrained misinformation has develop into inside the G.O.P., the place the reflexive response of the rank and file — and even a few distinguished figures — to something which may cast a detrimental gentle on the proper is to deflect with extra fictional claims, creating a vicious cycle that muddies info, shifts blame and minimizes violence.

It occurred after the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, which was impressed by Mr. Trump’s lie of a stolen election, and in flip gave rise to extra falsehoods, as Republicans and their right-wing allies tried to minimize, deny or invent a completely different story for what occurred, together with groundlessly blaming the F.B.I. and antifa. Mr. Pelosi’s attacker is claimed to have believed a few of these tales.

“This is the dynamic as it plays out,” stated Brian Hughes, a professor at American University who research radicalism and extremism. “The conspiracy theory prompts an act of violence; that act of violence needs to be disavowed, and it can only be disavowed by more conspiracy theories, which prompts more violence.”

The Justice Department moved swiftly to convey legal costs towards the suspect in the assault, David DePape, 42, who prosecutors stated broke into the Pelosi dwelling desiring to kidnap Ms. Pelosi and shatter her kneecaps, and assaulted her husband with a hammer, leaving him with a cracked cranium. The San Francisco district lawyer stated it was crucial for prosecutors to current the info to the public, given the misinformation circulating extensively about the case.

But by then, it was far too late. In a sample that has develop into commonplace, a parade of Republicans — helped alongside by right-wing media personalities together with the Fox New host Tucker Carlson, and distinguished folks together with the newly put in Twitter proprietor Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man — had already abetted the viral unfold of lies about the assault, distorting the account of what occurred earlier than info might get in the method. Finding life on far-right web sites and the so-called darkish net, conspiracy theories and falsehoods leaped from the fringes to the mainstream.


Fringe Websites and Mainstream Figures

Thousands of posts containing conspiracy theories about the assault have been shared on message boards, social media and in feedback sections of well-liked far-right websites, based on knowledge from Pyrra, a company that tracks fringe social media. As the chatter picked up, a number of elected officers and mainstream right-wing influencers additionally shared their doubts about the assault.





Comments from fringe web sites mentioning …

“Prostitute” or comparable phrases

Other sex-related conspiracy theories

Doubts about the official account

12:23 p.m. A Fox affiliate in San Francisco

studies that the attacker was present in his

underwear. The error was later corrected.

A conspiracy principle circulates extensively

that the assault was the end result

of a sexual affair.

8:15 a.m. Elon Musk, the new proprietor of

Twitter, tweets a hyperlink to a conspiracy web site

that baselessly claims that Mr. Pelosi was

attacked by a male prostitute.

Comments mentioning “prostitute” and

comparable phrases flood websites, reigniting

curiosity in the false principle.

5:06 p.m. On “The Big Sunday Show,”

a Fox News program, hosts elevate doubts

about the official account.

10:04 a.m. Representative Marjorie Taylor

Greene, Republican of Georgia, repeats the

conspiracy principle circulated by Mr. Musk

and calls the media the “supply

of misinformation.”

7:06 p.m. Jesse Watters, the Fox News host,

raises doubts about the official account of the

assault, saying that tumbler seems to be damaged

from inside the home.

8:43 p.m. Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host,

repeats the conspiracy principle shared by

Mr. Musk, joking that a distinguished liberal

influencer would declare that “Paul Pelosi

could not be homosexual, not that it’s a unhealthy factor.”

Comments from fringe web sites mentioning …

“Prostitute” or comparable phrases

Other sex-related conspiracy theories

Doubts about the official account

12:23 p.m.

A Fox affiliate in San

Francisco studies that

the attacker was present in

his underwear. The error

was corrected a

few hours later.

saturday, oct. 29

at 9 p.m.

A conspiracy principle

circulates extensively that

the assault was the end result

of a sexual affair.

8:15 AM

Elon Musk, the new

proprietor of Twitter, tweets

a hyperlink to a conspiracy

web site that baselessly

claims that Mr. Pelosi

was attacked by

a male prostitute.

5:06 p.m.

On “The Big Sunday

Show,” a Fox News

program, hosts

elevate doubts about

the official account.

10:04 a.m.

Representative Marjorie

Taylor Greene, a Republican

of Georgia, repeats the

conspiracy principle

circulated by Mr. Musk

and calls the media

the “supply of

misinformation.”

7:06 p.m.

Jesse Waters,the

Fox News host, raises

doubts about the official

account of the assault,

saying that tumbler seems

to be damaged from

inside the home.

tuesday, nov. 1 AT 6 A.M.

8:43 p.m.

Tucker Carlson, the Fox

News host, repeats the

conspiracy principle shared

by Mr. Musk, joking that

a distinguished liberal

influencer would declare

that “Paul Pelosi couldn’t

be homosexual, not that it’s

a unhealthy factor.”


Note: Roughly 9,500 feedback that talked about “Paul Pelosi” have been analyzed from 16 web sites and a service that gives commenting technology for on-line platforms. Key phrases, corresponding to ”prostitute,” have been grouped into the classes proven.

While many Republican leaders denounced the violence and a few, together with former Vice President Mike Pence, expressed sympathy for the Pelosis, none of them publicly condemned the falsehoods their colleagues have been elevating or did something to push again on the false narrative. That left others to fill the void.

“Just produce the police body cam, — why is that so hard?” Mr. Carlson demanded on his present on Wednesday evening. Addressing these criticizing the conspiracy theorizing, he added: “We’re not the crazy people; you’re the liars. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions, period.”

The disinformation surrounding the assault on Mr. Pelosi introduced lots of the normal parts of alt-right conspiracy theories, which relish a tradition of “do your own research,” casting skepticism on official accounts, and have a tendency to give attention to lurid sexual actions or points associated to youngsters, usually pushed by a concern of society turning into immoral.

Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation knowledgeable, stated no quantity of proof — be it police physique digicam footage or anything — might get in the method of such falsehoods in the eyes of those that don’t wish to imagine info.

“It doesn’t matter when there are documents or sworn testimony claiming something is, in fact, not the case,” Ms. Jankowicz stated. “There will be an elaborate reframing effort. If the footage was released, people would claim it was fabricated. There’s no bottom.”

Many of the Republicans who amplified the fiction couched their feedback as jokes, successfully pre-empting any criticism by suggesting they won’t be critical. Hours after the assault, Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, shared on-line a viral picture of a costume that included an outsized pair of males’s briefs and a hammer, remarking “the internet remains undefeated.”

A spokesman for Mr. Trump stated he “simply posted a joke meme and has always rejected political violence in all forms.”

Representative Claudia Tenney, Republican of New York, circulated a photograph on Twitter that confirmed a group of younger, white males holding outsized hammers beside a homosexual Pride flag, commenting merely: “LOL.”

Ms. Tenney didn’t reply to a request for remark.

It just isn’t clear whether or not the elected officers and media personalities who’ve trafficked in falsehoods imagine the conspiracy theories they’re elevating, or just wish to be rewarded by their right-wing base. According to public polling, as many as 70 % of Republicans nonetheless imagine that Mr. Trump was the true winner of the 2020 election.

Mary Williams Benefield, a Republican operating for a seat in Georgia’s statehouse, stated she had responded on-line to a tweet suggesting the assault was staged as a result of “the official narrative is unwilling to present all the facts.”

“Maybe their daughter has a film crew shooting a documentary on this too,” wrote the mom of three and former music instructor at a church college, making a reference to newly surfaced footage from a documentary Ms. Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra was filming that confirmed the speaker in a safe location throughout the Jan. 6 riot.

In an interview, Ms. Benefield introduced up a report that the police have debunked, which wrongly asserted that the intruder was dressed solely in his underwear. The Fox News affiliate that initially reported the element issued a correction saying the article had beforehand “misstated what clothing the suspect was wearing.”

That did nothing to vary Ms. Benefield’s thoughts.

“There’s a lot of questions that need to be asked before there’s any legitimacy,” she stated.

According to federal charging paperwork, Mr. DePape was enthralled by the conspiracy theories which have portrayed Ms. Pelosi as an enemy of the nation. His on-line actions present him ranting about the 2020 election being stolen, seeming to disclaim the gassing of Jews at Auschwitz and claiming that schoolteachers have been grooming youngsters to be transgender.

His lawyer has stated he deliberate to argue that Mr. DePape was so influenced by disinformation that it ought to be thought-about a mitigating circumstance.

Back to top button