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Conservative figures push salacious principle about Pelosi assault as native police chief debunks it



CNN

Outstanding figures on social media, together with a few of the loudest voices on the political proper, are pushing a salacious and false conspiracy principle in regards to the assault on Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, in an obvious try to shift the narrative in regards to the assault.

The declare that massive names like Elon Musk, Donald Trump, Jr., and Dinesh D’Souza have promoted to thousands and thousands of their followers: Paul Pelosi and the person who attacked him had been homosexual lovers who had gotten right into a combat.

The spurious principle traces again to an incorrect early information report and a handful of items of proof that its proponents have spun wildly out of context. It runs opposite to the reason police and federal legislation enforcement have outlined – that the suspect within the assault, David DePape, broke into Pelosi’s home and attacked him.

“There’s completely no proof that Mr. Pelosi knew this man,” San Francisco Police Chief William Scott informed CNN in an interview. “As a matter of reality, the proof signifies the precise reverse.”

However the explosion of social media posts discussing the speculation reveals how shortly conspiracies can unfold, and the way eagerly some political actors use falsehoods to push their agendas – at the same time as violent threats towards lawmakers have multiplied lately.

A conspiracy linked to Nancy Pelosi, who has lengthy been a lightning rod for conservatives and performed a starring position in GOP assault adverts, was an particularly interesting goal for right-wing conspiracists, in accordance with Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an American College professor who research polarization and extremism.

“Now we have a inhabitants that’s unable to discern what’s true and what’s not, and this spreading of misinformation from credible sources undermines that,” Miller-Idriss stated. “Individuals are prepared to simply accept conspiracy theories once they reinforce the narrative they already maintain of their heads.”

Based on police and an FBI affidavit included within the federal legal grievance, DePape broke right into a glass door in Pelosi’s San Francisco residence early Friday morning, after which went to the bed room to confront Pelosi, saying he wished to speak to his spouse. Pelosi managed to name 911, and officers arriving on the scene witnessed DePape hit him with a hammer.

These pushing the “homosexual lover” principle have pointed to a handful of purported items of proof based mostly on falsehoods and twisted storylines. They are saying that DePape was in his underwear when police arrived on the scene – however the native TV station that initially reported that it has since corrected its story and eliminated the assertion. Others have recommended {that a} third individual opened the door to Pelosi’s home, however police have debunked that.

Most of the theorists have latched on to a recording of a 911 dispatcher saying that Pelosi referred to DePape as “a good friend” and “sounded considerably confused.”

However Pelosi gave the impression to be talking in coded language on the 911 name to clarify he wanted assist, a legislation enforcement supply beforehand informed CNN. And the grievance notes that Pelosi informed officers he had by no means seen DePape earlier than.

The grievance additionally included an interview police did with DePape through which he admitted breaking into the home and stated he shocked Pelosi. Based on the grievance, DePape stated that he wished to carry Nancy Pelosi hostage as a result of he seen her because the “’chief of the pack’ of lies informed by the Democratic Occasion,” and claimed he was “preventing towards tyranny with out the choice of give up .”

Scott, the San Francisco chief, known as the conspiracies surrounding the assault “pathetic” and “disturbing.”

“We have spent a whole lot of power simply pushing again, actually ridiculous conspiracy theories, to ensure individuals keep targeted on our staff,” he stated. “These items are dangerous to society, they’re dangerous to the victims concerned – it is actually unhappy that we’re right here on this place, however we’re.”

Regardless of the dearth of proof, it took lower than 24 hours after the assault for the “homosexual lover” principle to take root in right-wing social media circles.

There have been not less than 19,000 tweets mentioning the phrases “Pelosi” and “homosexual” because the day of the assault, garnering a complete of greater than 700,000 likes, in accordance with a CNN evaluation – and that does not embrace tweets referencing the speculation with out these phrases, or tweets which have since been deleted.

One of many first extensively shared tweets endorsing the speculation seems to have come at 11:36 am on Friday, the day of the assault, gaining greater than 2,700 retweets.

That night, Raheem Kassam, a former Breitbart author and co-host of Steve Bannon’s podcast, tweeted, “They’re nonetheless pretending it wasn’t Paul Pelosi’s homosexual lover,” incomes over 1,000 retweets.

Different conservative figures like Donald Trump, Jr., Sebastian Gorka, and Dinesh D’Souza adopted swimsuit over the subsequent few days, both explicitly endorsing the speculation or referencing it approvingly. Rep. Clay Higgins, a Louisiana GOP congressman who sits on the Home Homeland Safety Committee, tweeted a photograph of Nancy Pelosi and referred to DePape as a “male prostitute,” earlier than deleting his tweet from him.

Musk helped elevate the conspiracy to a a lot wider viewers. On Sunday morning, the billionaire, who simply accomplished his buy of the social media community, responded to a tweet in regards to the Pelosi assault from Hillary Clinton and wrote “there’s a tiny risk there is likely to be extra to this story than meets the attention.” He linked to an article within the Santa Monica Observer, an obscure web site, claiming DePape was a male prostitute and Pelosi had been in a drunken dispute with him. The web site has beforehand posted false information, akin to a declare through the 2016 election that Clinton had died and been changed with a physique double for a debate.

Musk deleted the tweet round 2 pm later that day – however by then, it had already racked up greater than 28,000 retweets and 100,000 likes.

Conservative figures gleefully praised Musk for sharing the publish. “.@ElonMusk simply posted a hyperlink that claims Paul Pelosi might have been drunk and with a homosexual prostitute,” tweeted Lavern Spicer, a former GOP congressional candidate. “I’ve by no means revered him greater than now.” Her message from Ella was retweeted greater than 11,000 instances.

Gene DePape, the alleged attacker’s stepfather, stated it was dismaying to see his stepson became a personality in a conspiracy principle and used as a political speaking level. He informed CNN he scrolled by his Fb information feed for hours over the weekend, the place he first noticed the posts claiming his estranged stepson he had been lovers with Pelosi.

“It is fairly sick,” he stated.

David DePape’s personal social media and weblog postings present that he himself was steeped in conspiracy theories within the months and years earlier than the assault – from musings about QAnon to antisemitic rants to claims of a looming takeover by the worldwide elite.

DePape’s posts on Fb from final 12 months endorse a litany of right-wing falsehoods. I’ve posted a number of movies produced by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell falsely alleging that the 2020 election was stolen, linked to web sites claiming Covid vaccines had been lethal, and shared movies questioning the January 6, 2021 assault. CNN reviewed the posts earlier than the social media firm took the web page down, and a number of other of DePape’s family members confirmed the web page belonged to him.

On different blogs apparently written by DePape, he additionally posted antisemitic screeds and endorsed the QAnon conspiracy principle.

Some conservatives’ embrace of the “homosexual lover” principle has muddied the waters of a narrative that had led to bipartisan condemnation and sympathy for Pelosi – and distracted from dialogue of how different right-wing conspiracies may have impressed violence.

Miller-Idriss, the American College professor, stated that distinguished figures carelessly spreading misinformation can result in wider impacts on society.

“It is harmful as a result of it undermines peoples’ sense of reality, it helps them additional divorce from actuality,” she stated. “It’s a state of affairs the place they unfold it additional – and so they move it on.”

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