The conspiracy theories surrounding the October attack on Paul Pelosi never made sense. And now the public can see that a whole host of these false claims have been definitively debunked by audio and video evidence.
Prominent right-wing figures – including former President Donald Trump and some Republican congressmen – circulated a host of inaccurate allegations and baseless innuendos after an intruder’s brutal hammer attack on the husband of then-Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi broke into their California home and looked for her.
Local and state law enforcement have always been clear that the incident was an act of violence committed by an assailant unknown to Paul Pelosi, and not some sort of suggestive consensual encounter gone awry. The discovery of records released by a court last week confirms the authorities were right.
One of the people who promoted the false claims, billionaire businessman and Twitter boss Elon Musk, tweeted a brief apology last weekend after the evidence surfaced. On Wednesday, CNN reached out to the other individuals whose debunked statements we mention in this article to ask if they would like to express regret for what they had said. None of them responded except for a representative from One America News, the far-right entity that circulated some of the wildest false claims about the incident. They issued a statement confirming that it is now “clear that an unwelcome intruder with malicious intent broke into Pelosi’s home.”
Below is a list of six false claims about the incident that newly released evidence proves to be untrue.
Echoing claims circulating among right-wing social media accounts, Trump said claims in a radio interview that aired in early November: “But the glass appeared to have been broken inside out — and you know it was — so it wasn’t a burglary, it was a burglary.”
NOT CORRECT. It was a burglary. Surveillance footage released by the court last week shows suspected attacker David DePape using a hammer to smash down a back door at the Pelosi home and then maneuvering his body to enter the home.
Nothing about this footage came as a surprise. When Trump made his false claim, the FBI had already said in a court filing that DePape admitted breaking the glass with a hammer. Again, this law enforcement claim is corroborated by the newly released recording of DePape’s interview with the San Francisco Police Department. (DePape has pleaded not guilty to federal and state charges including burglary, assault, attempted kidnapping, and attempted murder.)
Florida Republican Rep. Greg Steube claimed in a Newsmax interview in early November that Pelosi called the intruder “his friend” in his 911 call. Right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza made a similar claim, tweet In late October that “Paul Pelosi knew his attacker and NAMED him in his 911 call.” Fox host Tucker Carlson said on his show in late October that “when Pelosi called 911, he knew DePape’s first name and apparently referred to him as a friend.” Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia tweeted In late October that the attacker was “Paul Pelosi’s friend.”
NOT CORRECT. the Audio of Pelosi’s 911 callreleased by the court last week proves that Pelosi repeatedly said he did not know who the intruder was and that Pelosi refused to call the man a friend.
On Pelosi’s 911 call, it was DePape who identified himself as “David” in the background. Pelosi repeated “the name is David” for the dispatcher, but he was quick to repeat that he didn’t know who the man was. DePape then spoke up again to pretend to be Pelosi’s “friend,” but Pelosi told the dispatcher, “He says he’s a friend, but like I said…” When the dispatcher replied, “But you don’t know who he is.” Pelosi said that was correct.
The tone of the call confirms what the FBI said in the October court filing and federal prosecutors said in a more detailed November court filing.
In fairness, the false claims about what Pelosi said on the 911 call likely came from police scanner audio from the night of the incident that Carlson played on his show in late October, which featured a male dispatcher — not the woman who he was actually speaking to Pelosi – seemed to be saying that Pelosi had reported that the person at his house was called David and was a friend. But the audio of Pelosi’s 911 call shows that the dispatcher’s comment was likely a momentary inaccuracy about what happened.
Right-wing commentator Raheem Kassam tweeted in late October, “They’re still pretending it’s not Paul Pelosi’s gay lover.” Republican Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana tweeted in late October that the attacker was a “male prostitute,” then deleted the tweet. And Musk, also in late October, tweeted a link to a baseless article claiming the incident involved an argument between Pelosi and a prostitute. Musk wrote, “There’s a tiny possibility there may be more to this story than meets the eye.” Hours later, he deleted his tweet.
These claims are wrong. All evidence, including a Recording of DePape’s interview with the policeconfirms that Pelosi was confronted at his home in the middle of the night by an unknown intruder intent on confronting the Democratic House Speaker political antipathy to her and other Democrats.
right figures including D’Souza claimed or implied that Pelosi’s attacker was in his underwear.
The claim is wrong. Police body camera footage As the FBI court released last week, evidence shows that DePape was wearing shorts when officers arrived at the home said in the October court filing, and that he was fully clothed in a sweatshirt and shoes, federal prosecutors added November court record.
This claim that the intruder was in his underwear stems from an erroneous report by a local San Francisco television station on the day of the attack. But D’Souza made his claims a full day after the local broadcaster, a Fox subsidiary, corrected that report.
Some right-wing commentators promoted the idea that Pelosi also wielded a hammer during his interaction with DePape, again insinuating that some sort of friendly encounter occurred.
On Twitter, New York Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney wrote “LOL” while amplifying a meme depicting a group of men holding hammers near an LGBT Pride flag; She eventually deleted it. On Instagram, Donald Trump Jr. posted and deleted a crude meme that suggested Pelosi used a hammer during a sexual scenario (while ridiculously claiming the meme had nothing to do with anything in the news). On Facebook, Republican North Carolina Gov. Mark Robinson posted a meme suggesting two hammers were involved in a semi-naked encounter. Robinson wrote in the post, which remains online today, “I’m sorry Paul I don’t believe you or the press!!!!”
All of this is nonsense. Police body camera footage shows Pelosi and DePape each holding a single hammer just inside the door of the Pelosi home before DePape yanked that hammer away and hit Pelosi with it. There is no indication that Pelosi had his own hammer at any point in the incident.
In a remark made by San Francisco Police Commissioner Bill Scott at a press conference on the day of the attack, there was at least a bit of grammatical ambiguity; Scott said that upon arrival at the home, “our officers observed Mr. Pelosi and the suspect, both holding a gavel. The suspect pulled the gavel away from Mr. Pelosi and violently attacked him with it.” But even if a listener was genuinely confused by the phrase “both holding a hammer,” it was irresponsible for prominent figures to start joking about suggestive scenarios, in which Pelosi himself carried a hammer.
The most ridiculous of the bogus conspiracy theories was that the incident was staged or that Pelosi’s injuries were imaginary. At least two One America News anchors made such claims in comments in late October, previously noted by liberal media regulator Media Matters for America. And Republican Senator Wendy Rogers from the state of Arizona retweeted a meme showing an alleged online store listing for a novel party accessory “Paul Pelosi Fake Attack”.
The attack was obviously genuine; Both the break-in and the attack were caught on video footage that the public has now seen. And the tape of DePape’s interview with police shows him speaking openly about the burglary and assault, though he later pleaded not guilty again.
Here is the full statement that One America News conveyed to CNN on Wednesday: “With the release of the video and other evidence, it is clear that an unwelcome intruder with malicious intent broke into the Pelosi home. Mr. Pelosi’s 911 call reveals an incredibly calm and highly intelligent victim trying to relay vital information and request immediate assistance without further annoying a deranged intruder. We wish Mr. Pelosi a speedy and full recovery.”