Plotting Against Paul Pelosi
The Media Research Center had been targeting Nancy Pelosi's husband for months. When a man broke into their house and attacked him with a hammer, the MRC feigned outrage that others were suggesting right-wing animus that might have provoked it.
By Terry Krepel
Earlier this year, the Media Research Center was obsessed with Paul Pelosi, husband of hated Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi, getting arrested on a DUI charge, repeatedly demanding that it be treated as a major news story even though it, um, wasn't. Scott Whitlock whined in a May 31 post:
Paul Pelosi, the husband of liberal media favorite Nancy Pelosi, on Saturday night was arrested for allegedly driving drunk. The three networks jumped into protection mode, allowing just 117 seconds total. ABC’s coverage was the paltriest, just a scant 22 seconds on Sunday night.
When the right-wing obsession with Pelosi's DUI was pointed out, P.J. Gladnick grumbled in a June 5 post:
Perhaps Newsweek somehow hasn't gotten the message that the word "pounce" as in "Republicans pounce" has become such a laughable cliché that even Politico has ditched it in favor of "seized" after years of being mocked for overusing it. Last Sunday, Newsweek pulled out the worn cliché to frame their story by Jason Lemon about how Republicans reacted to the arrest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband for DUI in "MAGA Republicans Pounce After Nancy Pelosi's Husband Arrested for DUI."
Neither Whitlock nor Gladnick explained why such a minor crime story warranted the national coverage they demanded beyond their irrational enmity for his wife.
A July 18 item by Tober referenced "Nancy Pelosi's drunk-driving husband" in accusing him of improperly buying stocks. He was back on the DUI beat with another "nets ignore but Fox News promotes" post on Aug. 3:
On Wednesday morning, a lawyer for Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, showed up on his behalf in a Napa County, California courthouse to plead not guilty during Pelosi's arraignment on DUI charges. Court documents also revealed more details about the night Pelosi was arrested for driving with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.
Tober's anti-Pelosi activism finally got a little payoff, and he was happy to gloat in an Aug. 23 post:
Almost three months since Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband Paul was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in Napa County California, ABC's World News Tonight and CBS Evening News decided now would be a good time to report on the story now that Pelosi had been given a slap on the wrist with three years probation, an eight-hour community service program, a three-month course on the dangers of drunk driving, and an "ignition interlock device installed in his car for one year."
Like his co-workers, Tober never explained why Paul Pelosi's DUI demanded blanket national coverage. And you can be sure if "the spouse of a Republican House Speaker" was involved, Tober would be loudly whining that there was any coverage at all, no matter how minimal, and cheering Fox News for its inevitable censorship of the story.
Having set up Paul Pelosi as a target for right-wing activist merely for being married to Nancy Pelosi -- not for any political views he himself might have -- it's unsurprising what happened a few months later: A man broke to the Pelosi's San Francisco and attacked Paul with a hammer while loudly demanding, "Where's Nancy"? Also unsurprisingly, the MRC was much more concerned that the attacker might be associated with the brand of MAGA conservatism it's associating itself with lately than the attack itself.
When an MSNBC commentator argued that right-wingers are causing a "normalization of violence," Alex Christy used an Oct. 29 post to not only distance his fellow Pelosi-hating conservatives from the attack but played the No True Scotsman fallacy to pretend that attacker could not possibly have been a real MAGA guy: "Several Republicans came out and condemned the attack and wished Paul Pelosi well in his recovery. The attacker also, as NBC’s own write-up reports, doesn’t fit neatly into an ideological box, 'The [attacker’s] posts take aspects of liberal anti-establishment ideas to more recent posts that espouse positions typically associated with far-right extremism, the sources said.'”
Tim Graham played the whataboutism card in whining that a panelist on a PBS show made "snarky comments" about Republicans who allegedly wished Paul Pelosi well but then "had nothing to say about how energetically liberals on Twitter were accusing Trump and his supporters of being responsible for the Pelosi attack -- or, as Twitchy pointed out, how liberals were still being snarky about Sen. Rand Paul being brutally attacked by his neighbor in 2017, which led to broken ribs."
Joseph Vazquez desperately attacked a local radio station to play the distancing card in an Oct. 30 post:
Leftist hacks at a National Public Radio affiliate spewed wild hyperbole at a GOP congresswoman by arbitrarily connecting her to the “nudist activist” who attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
Vazquez went on to quote a Stefanik spokesperson attacking the radio station with whataboutism: "They refuse to cover the violent leftist rhetoric which led to an assassination attempt on a Supreme Court Justice. This is deranged and dangerous, they should and will be defunded. " One wonders if Stefanik's campaign paid the MRC for writing this piece, because it certainly reads that way, and a small-market public radio station is not a typical MRC target.
Kevin Tober found his own bit of whataboutism to promote:
On Sunday’s edition of CBS’s Face the Nation, anchor Margaret Brennan tried to accuse Republican Congressman Tom Emmer of stoking political violence and being responsible for the alleged attack on Paul Pelosi’s husband by an unhinged nudist in San Francisco. Brennan’s reasoning for these flimsy allegations was that Emmer dared to post a video on Twitter of him exercising his Second Amendment rights and urged voters to protect their rights by firing Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House in November. Since Brennan is apparently unhinged herself, Brennan interpreted that tweet as a threat to Pelosi’s life.
Neither Tober nor Emmer offered any evidence that Sanders ever engaged in the kind of violent rhetoric that could possibly have inspired any shooter. He then cranked up the whataboutism even more:
The media don’t want to discuss the fact that Democrat rhetoric has inspired countless acts of political violence.
Again, Tober provided no example of "Democrat rhetoric" that explicitly inspired any specific act of violence. (Also, all cities that existed before George Floyd's death were still standing after that summer's strife, so claiming that people "burned cities to the ground" is a blatant lie.)
P.J. Gladnick, meanwhile, freaked out over a news story being covered:
Politico is so intent on suggesting to its readers that evil right-wing Republicans were responsible at least indirectly for the break-in of Nancy Pelosi's home in which her husband Paul Pelosi ended up in the hospital due to being hammered that they have published on Friday and Saturday not one or two or even three or four stories on this topic but ELEVEN, count 'em, ELEVEN stories at the very top of their home page.
Mark Finkelstein began an Oct. 31 post by grumbling: "We don't buy the conspiracy theory that Democrats cooked up the attack on Paul Pelosi as a last-minute election ploy. But, wow the liberal media is fully embracing the conspiracy theory that this can be directly connected to January 6 and should become a central election issue." He then complained about "Morning Joe" taking a "deep dive" into the shooting and that "A quick word search of the closed-captioning (a rough measure) shows 'Pelosi' was spoken 81 times," further complaining that "Mika was simply going to ignore the San Francisco Chronicle (not a MAGA newspaper) reporting the alleged assailant DePape was part of a nudist group and became a hemp jewelry maker. They also found he was once registered as a member of the Green Party. Someone is looking away at potential parallels." He concluded by huffing: "We have a 'news' network that isn't really reporting new facts on this assault. Instead, the liberal are media look like they are exploiting the attack for all it's worth to stave off a potential red wave."
Curtis Houck similarly latched onto the "nudist" angle, as if Republicans could not possibly be interested in such a thing:
On Monday morning, the objective from the liberal broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC was clear: blame conservatives as accessories for attempted murder in the attack on Paul Pelosi by a Berekely-residing nudist. The networks even admitted but argued, without evidence, tens of millions of right-leaning Americans are “play[ing] footsie with the forces of violence.”
Given how vociferously the MRC has been playing whataboutism about the Pelosi attack and its attacks on the House committee investigating the Capitol riot, it seems quite clear that that it cares about political violence only when they're the victims. Houck laughably summarized the whole thing insisting it was all about "attempts to criminalize dissent and blame tens of millions of conservatives for the actions of a mentally ill nudist."
Tober found a new distraction in an Oct. 31 post regarding the attacker's alleged immigration status:
Despite spending parts of their respective reports lashing out a Republicans for the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul in the middle of the night on Friday, the big three evening news networks managed to ignore the fact that the alleged attacker was an illegal immigrant who overstayed his visa. Only Fox News’s Special Report mentioned this key detail.
Tober also took another shot at Pelosi's DUI, sneering: "While political violence no matter which side commits it is reprehensible, the important fact is that if our nation’s immigration laws were enforced and our legal system treated everyone equally no matter how powerful, DePape would have been deported and Paul Pelosi would be in jail on his recent drunk driving charges." Tober offered no evidence that Pelosi's DUI case warranted the long prison term he demands.
A Nov. 1 post by Alex Christy complained that right-wingers' viciously anti-Nancy Pelosi rhetoric was being called out as a contributing factor in inciting Pelosi's assailant as he tried to turn that criticism into a conspiracy theory: "Alleging that simply calling Pelosi “crazy” is responsible for the assault is insane and just a not-so clever way to demand that Republicans shut up and stop criticizing Democrats." Christy theorized later in the day that referring to Republicans' "fetishization of violence" was a code word, "MSNBC's way of saying support for the Second Amendment in their campaign ads," going on to whine: "One can hope, but shouldn’t hold their breath, that MSNBC will dial down the rhetoric that accuses the most basic sort of campaigning with a 'fetishization of violence.'"
The MRC then had to ride to the defense of one of its favorite (pre-election, anyway) right-wing darlings, Republican Arizona governor candidate Kari Lake, for making a stupidly insensitive remark about the attack on Pelosi. Curtis Houck huffed:
Like NBC would do, [CNS Mornings co-host] co-host Tony Dokoupil focused on comments from Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) in which she simply noted that, in answering a question about securing schools, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has “apparently, her house doesn’t have a lot of protection.”
Houck offered no evidence that Lake wasn't making fun of the attack. Meanwhile, Mark Finkelstein similarly complained that CNN's Don Lemon condemned Lake for her comments on the attack, calling them "vile, vile," then attacked Lemon instead of criticizing Lake's insensitivity: "If the goal of Chris Licht, the new CNN honcho, was to move the liberal network toward the center, today was an ominous start."
Houck got back on track to the main distraction narrative and spouting of talking points -- and stenography for a Republican senator -- in another post:
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) finally put a stop on Tuesday to CBS Mornings’s attempts to blame conservatives and Republicans for the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi by a drug-addicted mentally ill, and former Green Party nudist. During the six-plus-minute interview meant to promote his new book, Cotton calmly beat down the repeated aspersions from co-host Tony Dokoupil by citing the left’s double standard on crime and political violence.
More posts continued to lash out at commentators linking extremist right-wing rhetoric to the attack:
After that, the MRC advanced to more formal bouts of whataboutism. Nicholas Fondacaro huffed in a Nov. 2 post:
With less than a week until Election Day, the liberal media are trying to milk the heinous attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) husband, Paul Pelosi, for all it’s worth. Despite the fact that political violence has hit both parties, the liberal media show far less concern when conservatives are involved. NewsBusters examined the first five days of the Pelosi attack and found that it was 11 times larger than the amount of coverage on the major broadcast network (ABC, CBS, and NBC morning, evening, and Sunday morning shows had given over the same period to the attempted assassination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Fondacaro didn't mention that there was no genuine "attempted assassination" of Kavanaugh -- the alleged assailant's gun was unloaded and he turned himself in before he actually did anything -- and that inherently makes the story less newsworthy.
That study got repeated on the MRC's podcast that day, guest-hosted by Fondacaro, who wrote:
On this episode of the NewsBusters Podcast, managing editor Curtis Houck and I discuss how the liberal media aren’t letting a good crisis go to waste as they use the heinous attack against Paul Pelosi (Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) husband as a prop to help Democratic chances in midterm elections.
Tober tried playing whataboutism with a different incident in a Nov. 3 post:
The leftist media spent most of the past week wringing their hands over an allegedly politically motivated attack against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband Paul but they have been silent on a shooting that took place at the home of Republican North Carolina congressional candidate Pat Harrigan's parents. The shooter fired a gun through the window of the home where his children were sleeping, but thankfully no one was injured or killed.
Tober downplayed the fact that the incident happened on Oct. 18 -- a full two weeks before it was reported in the media -- and there has been no evidence presented thus far that the incident was politically motivated. Still, Tober didn't let that distract him from staying on the message he's being paid to deliver:
If Harrigan was a Democrat, the networks would've reported on this and used it as another example of Republican rhetoric killing "democracy."
Rich Noyes served up his own unhappy whataboutism angle in a Nov. 5 "flashback" post:
An exceptionally repulsive feature of journalism these days is when media figures use tragedies to smear their political adversaries as dangerous threats. That’s clearly happening now, in the wake of last week’s savage hammer attack on Paul Pelosi first thing Monday morning, for example, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski flatly blamed “years of Republican propaganda and Trump-fueled fascism” for the crime.
The now-retired Noyes didn't mention that just a week earlier, his former co-workers heavily hyped the story of a Republican campaign volunteer in Florida being beaten in order to link Democrats to the violence -- before it was discovered that the volunteer was a notorious white supremacist and the attack apparently had nothing to do with politics.
Once again, the MRC is criticizing someone for doing the exact same thing it does.
The MRC largely ignored the story after that, aside from a couple articles complaining that a NBC story pushing right-wing-friendly narratives about the attack was later retracted. A hypocritical Dec. 3 item by P.J. Gladnick complained the attack story was dropped ... by Politico, not the MRC:
After a total of ELEVEN Paul Pelosi assault stories appearing in the October 29 edition of Politico in which the alleged assailant, David DePape, was portrayed (with scant evidence) as a MAGA Republican for whom GOP officials were expected to apologize for, the sum total of these stories once the midterm elections were safely past dwindled to the extent that for the past couple of weeks, there has been no follow-up on the investigation of how this attack unfolded.
Another exit question: Will Gladnick call out his fellow MRCers for dropping the story the same way he accused Politico of doing? Will he ever name a development in the story that both Politico and the MRC should have reported on but didn't?
Nah, that would be too logically consistent.