In the immediate hours following news that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s 82-year-old husband was assaulted by a hammer-wielding assailant in their San Francisco home, Fox News hosts and commentators quickly moved to spin the attack as anything but politically motivated.
Even after reporting on the suspect’s reported embrace of right-wing conspiracy theories about COVID and 2020 election denialism, the network’s anchors wondered how to “connect all of that” to Pelosi as there’s a “missing trail of dots here.”
David DePape, 42, was taken into police custody early Friday morning after allegedly breaking into the speaker’s house and attacking Paul Pelosi. “The suspect pulled the hammer away from Mr. Pelosi and violently assaulted him with it,” San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said on Friday. “Our officers immediately tackled the suspect, disarmed him, took him into custody, requested emergency backup and rendered medical aid.”
While the motivation of the attack is still under investigation, CNN reported on Friday morning that DePape shouted “Where is Nancy, where is Nancy?” upon entering the home and allegedly attempted to tie up Paul Pelosi until the speaker returned.
Additionally, a review of DePape’s social-media activity showed a voracious consumption of far-right conspiracies, including posting videos from MAGA pillow salesman Mike Lindell baselessly claiming the 2020 presidential elections was stolen from former President Donald Trump.
Besides sharing links to crank websites falsely claiming the COVID-19 vaccines are deadly and that George Floyd was killed by a drug overdose, he also regularly shared transphobic memes and images. On top of that, DePape also reportedly kept a blog that groused about the “ruling class” and further delved into far-right conspiracies, such as “Pizzagate,” QAnon, and concerns that “pedo schools” are normalizing pedophilia.
As reporters dug into the suspect’s past and potential motivations, Fox News personalities and guests pivoted to suggesting the attack on Pelosi’s home was a “random” incident among a nationwide surge in violent crime, which they’ve long blamed on supposedly lax policies in Democrat-led cities.
“So obviously we don’t know what happened with this assault on Mr. Pelosi and it's reprehensible no matter what the circumstances, but I so also think it’s worth keeping in mind we are in a crime crisis in our country because we demoralize the police,” independent California gubernatorial candidate Michael Shellenberger said on Fox News. “We have basically said to the police they are the enemy in a variety of ways. And I think this is a wake-up call that these are problems that affect everybody. This isn’t just a problem that affects people in poor neighborhoods that we all should be concerned about restoring public safety, both to cities like San Francisco and cities around the country.”
At the same time, while tying the attack to rising crime rates, some Fox hosts took aim at former President Joe Biden for some reason.
“There are two things we could have on our hands here. You know, a crime situation that just happened more randomly or with some motivation but wasn’t really targeted at Pelosi per se,” Fox Business host Jackie DeAngelis declared on Fox News daytime chat show Outnumbered.
“That shines a light on what’s happening not only in San Francisco but all these other cities,” she continued. “If we have a situation where this is politically motivated, you have to step back and say: ‘Why is our country so divided?’ President Biden, you got up to the podium and said you were gonna bring us together!”
Another Outnumbered host, however, was actually upset that Biden even condemned the attack on Pelosi’s husband—wondering why the president hasn’t done the same condemnation for other hammer attacks.
“I don’t remember them doing that when we watched an elderly Asian-American get stomped in the face multiple times. Or attacks with hammers here in the city that has affected thousands of Americans who are victims,” Emily Compagno fumed at one point.
While CNN and other media outlets reported some of the suspect’s unhinged social-media posts, Fox News’ “straight news” division cautiously suggested the violence way have been a random criminal act.
“We just don’t know at this point, that this person could have been motivated by just about anything. We don’t know,” Fox News anchor John Roberts proclaimed.
“Yeah, the only indication we have is ‘Where’s Nancy?’ That he was waiting for Nancy,” chief political anchor Bret Baier responded. “But we don’t know his point of view.”
Eventually, though, the Fox anchors and reporters began reporting on DePape’s social-media activity. However, they did so while whistling past the fact that the conspiracy theories he espoused often echoed much of the network’s opinion programming.
“Social media posts included transphobic images, links to websites claiming COVID vaccines were deadly. The [COVID] death rates being promoted are whatever they want to be promoted as the death rate, one post said,” Roberts reported. “Also posted links to YouTube videos with titles like ‘Democrat FARCE Commission to Investigate January 6th Capitol Riot COLLAPSES in Congress!!!’ and ‘Global Elites Plan To Take Control Of YOUR Money!’” Roberts then added: “So, it looks like we potentially have somebody here who embraces conspiracy theories?”
The Fox anchor left something out, however, while describing DePape’s posts, as Mediaite editor-in-chief Aidan McLaughlin noted on Twitter.
“Roberts calls them ‘conspiracy theories’ but all of these theories appear nightly on Tucker Carlson’s show,” he wrote. Indeed, the primetime Fox News host regularly traffics in anti-trans commentary, vaccine skepticism, anger over the global elite “ruling class,” and disdain for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
After reporting that a former associate of DePape distanced herself from him after he began “using Biblical justification to do harm,” Roberts wondered how this could possibly have led to him violently lashing out at Pelosi. “Again, how do you connect all of that with Nancy Pelosi? That’s the missing trail of dots here,” he wondered.
Baier, though, pointed out that there were posts on DePape’s Facebook page that did mention the speaker.
“You also have to be careful scouring the social media stuff because people can go out there and spoof some of these social media sites,” Roberts reacted. “So you’ve got to be very careful that you know exactly what it is we’re looking at before we report on it.”
Fox News contributor and former California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner, in her appearance Friday afternoon, rather openly exposed the main goal here: Blame the libs, no matter what.
“It’s imperative, also, that we don’t make this a partisan issue,” she told anchor Martha MacCallum. Thirty seconds later, however, she exclaimed: “Soft on crime liberals, politicians running to actually defund the police... We have to get these people out of office!”
And, of course, she also managed to get in a shot at Biden with the midterm elections only 11 days away.
“Another major takeaway is Biden,” she said. “He’s done nothing to tone down the rhetoric and unite this nation.”