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HomeTechnologyHow Republicans Fed a Misinformation Loop Concerning the Pelosi Assault

How Republicans Fed a Misinformation Loop Concerning the Pelosi Assault



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


Some Republican officers rapidly 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 on 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 private 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. However none of it was true.

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

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

Elected officers and candidates

Photo of Senator Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz

Republican of Texas

Amplified doubts that every one info have been being disclosed.

Photo of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene

Consultant Marjorie Taylor Greene

Republican of Georgia

Urged Mr. Pelosi knew his attacker.

Photo of Representative Clay Higgins

Consultant Clay Higgins

Republican of Louisiana

Urged the assault concerned male prostitution.

Photo of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson

Republican of North Carolina

Raised doubts concerning the particulars of the assault.

Photo of Mary Williams Benefield

Mary Williams Benefield

Republican statehouse candidate, Georgia

Urged 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

Urged the assault might need been staged.

Photo of State Representative Anthony Sabatini

State Consultant Anthony Sabatini

Republican of Florida

Urged that the Pelosis are hiding important data.

Photo of Representative Claudia Tenney

Consultant Claudia Tenney

Republican of New York

Amplified a conspiracy principle about an extramarital homosexual affair.

Distinguished figures

Photo of Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck

Conservative commentator

Raised doubts concerning the particulars of the assault.

Photo of Tucker Carlson

Tucker Carlson

Fox Information host

Raised doubts concerning 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, College students for Trump

Claimed particulars concerning the attacker have been fabricated.

Photo of Sebastian Gorka

Sebastian Gorka

Former Trump adviser and podcast host

Raised doubts concerning the particulars of the assault.

Photo of Pete Hegseth

Pete Hegseth

Fox Information host

Raised doubts that every one info have been being disclosed.

Photo of Megyn Kelly

Megyn Kelly

Speak present host

Raised doubts that every one info have been being disclosed.

Photo of Elon Musk

Elon Musk

Chief govt 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

Speak present host

Raised doubts that every one info have been being disclosed.

Photo of Roger Stone

Roger Stone

Trump affiliate

Urged the assault was staged.

Photo of Donald J. Trump

Donald J. Trump

Former president

Urged the assault was staged.


The flood of falsehoods confirmed how ingrained misinformation has turn out to be contained in the G.O.P., the place the reflexive response of the rank and file — and even a number of distinguished figures — to something that may forged a adverse gentle on the fitting is to deflect with extra fictional claims, making 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 play down, deny or invent a unique 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.


“That is the dynamic because it performs out,” stated Brian Hughes, a professor at American College who research radicalism and extremism. “The conspiracy principle prompts an act of violence; that act of violence must be disavowed, and it could possibly solely be disavowed by extra conspiracy theories, which prompts extra violence.”


The Justice Division moved swiftly to convey legal prices in opposition to the suspect within the assault, David DePape, 42, who prosecutors stated broke into the Pelosi dwelling meaning 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 general public, given the misinformation circulating extensively concerning the case.


However by then, it was far too late. In a sample that has turn out to be commonplace, a parade of Republicans — helped alongside by right-wing media personalities together with the Fox New host Tucker Carlson, and distinguished individuals together with the newly put in Twitter proprietor Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man — had already abetted the viral unfold of lies concerning the assault, distorting the account of what occurred earlier than info may get in the way in which. Discovering life on far-right web sites and the so-called darkish internet, conspiracy theories and falsehoods leaped from the fringes to the mainstream.


Fringe Web sites and Mainstream Figures

Hundreds of posts containing conspiracy theories concerning the assault have been shared on message boards, social media and in feedback sections of well-liked far-right websites, in keeping with knowledge from Pyrra, an organization that tracks fringe social media. Because the chatter picked up, a number of elected officers and mainstream right-wing influencers additionally shared their doubts concerning the assault.





pelosi chart side by side Artboard 1

Feedback from fringe web sites mentioning …

“Prostitute” or comparable phrases

Different sex-related conspiracy theories

Doubts concerning the official account

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

stories that the attacker was present in his

underwear. The error was later corrected.

A conspiracy principle circulates extensively

that the assault was the outcome

of a sexual affair.

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

Twitter, tweets a hyperlink to a conspiracy web site

that baselessly claims that Mr. Pelosi was

attacked by a male prostitute.

Feedback mentioning “prostitute” and

comparable phrases flood websites, reigniting

curiosity within the false principle.

5:06 p.m. On “The Huge Sunday Present,”

a Fox Information program, hosts elevate doubts

concerning the official account.

10:04 a.m. Consultant 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 Information host,

raises doubts concerning 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 Information 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.”

pelosi chart side by side Artboard 2

Feedback from fringe web sites mentioning …

“Prostitute” or comparable phrases

Different sex-related conspiracy theories

Doubts concerning the official account

12:23 p.m.

A Fox affiliate in San

Francisco stories 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 outcome

of a sexual affair.

8:15 AM

Elon Musk, the brand 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 Huge Sunday

Present,” a Fox Information

program, hosts

elevate doubts about

the official account.

10:04 a.m.

Consultant 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 Information host, raises

doubts concerning 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

Information 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 foul factor.”






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


Whereas 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.


“Simply produce the police physique cam, — why is that so arduous?” Mr. Carlson demanded on his present on Wednesday evening. Addressing these criticizing the conspiracy theorizing, he added: “We’re not the loopy individuals; you’re the liars. There’s nothing improper with asking questions, interval.”


The disinformation surrounding the assault on Mr. Pelosi offered most of the commonplace parts of alt-right conspiracy theories, which relish a tradition of “do your individual analysis,” casting skepticism on official accounts, and have a tendency to deal with lurid sexual actions or points associated to kids, 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 the rest — may get in the way in which of such falsehoods within the eyes of those that don’t wish to imagine info.


“It doesn’t matter when there are paperwork or sworn testimony claiming one thing is, actually, not the case,” Ms. Jankowicz stated. “There might be an elaborate reframing effort. If the footage was launched, individuals would declare it was fabricated. There’s no backside.”


Lots of the Republicans who amplified the fiction couched their feedback as jokes, successfully pre-empting any criticism by suggesting they may not be critical. Hours after the assault, Donald Trump Jr., the previous president’s son, shared on-line a viral picture of a fancy dress that included an outsized pair of males’s briefs and a hammer, remarking “the web stays undefeated.”


A spokesman for Mr. Trump stated he “merely posted a joke meme and has all the time rejected political violence in all kinds.”


Consultant Claudia Tenney, Republican of New York, circulated {a photograph} on Twitter that confirmed a bunch of younger, white males holding outsized hammers beside a homosexual Satisfaction flag, commenting merely: “LOL.”


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


It 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. In response to public polling, as many as 70 p.c of Republicans nonetheless imagine that Mr. Trump was the true winner of the 2020 election.


Mary Williams Benefield, a Republican working 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 current all of the info.”


“Perhaps their daughter has a movie crew taking pictures a documentary on this too,” wrote the mom of three and former music instructor at a church faculty, 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 in the course of 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 Information affiliate that initially reported the element issued a correction saying the article had beforehand “misstated what clothes the suspect was carrying.”


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


“There’s plenty of questions that must be requested earlier than there’s any legitimacy,” she stated.


In response 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 concerning the 2020 election being stolen, seeming to disclaim the gassing of Jews at Auschwitz and claiming that schoolteachers have been grooming kids to be transgender.


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



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