Congressional Democrats say the attack on Paul Pelosi is the direct result of a nearly two-decades long campaign to vilify House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the living embodiment of what Republicans dislike about the Democratic Party.
“The attack on Speaker Pelosi’s family was not a ‘random act,’” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. “It was the logical result of a Republican Party that has targeted the speaker and other prominent women in public life for over a decade now, and then gaslights us when we call out its danger.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who has been subject to death threats himself, claimed that former President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers had created a political environment in which violence is seen as acceptable.
“We must draw the straight lines that connect violent political rhetoric and violent acts,” said Swalwell. “The Pelosi assailant’s Facebook page looks identical to the Facebook pages of Trump, [Georgia Rep. Marjorie] Taylor Greene, and [Colorado Rep. Lauren] Boebert. All three of them have glorified violence and [David] Depape acted on it.”
In the days following the attack, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told the New York Times that the attacks on Pelosi have been “especially personal,” and said those attacks have been “unrelenting.”
Congressional party leaders have long received outsized and at times unfair attention from political opponents.
In the 1980s, Republicans criticized Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas as a tyrant and accused him of corruption over a lucrative book deal. A few years later, after the GOP landslide of 1994, Democrats painted GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich as a bully and conservative radical who didn’t care about hurting working people by shutting down the government.
Pelosi, who has served in the Democratic leadership since 2001, has gotten attention because of her long tenure and her liberal policy positions. Republicans have long painted the multimillionaire, San Francisco liberal as an out-of-touch elitist.
Republicans have condemned the violence perpetrated against Paul Pelosi, but say it’s a stretch to blame that violence on political discourse.
“You can’t say people saying, ‘Let’s fire Pelosi’ or ‘Let’s take back the House’ is saying, ‘Go do violence.’ It’s just unfair and I think we all need to recognize violence is up across the board,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
GOP lawmakers note that Pelosi is not the only political leader to be vilified for political gain.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been accused by Democrats of stealing a Supreme Court seat and attempting to subvert democracy by opposing a federal takeover of elections law. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has been smeared by Democrats as Trump’s whipping boy for his close alliance to the former president.
These attacks on Republicans were one reason why a crazed gunman shot GOP Whip Steve Scalise in 2017.
“There is a double standard here that drives Republicans crazy,” one centrist GOP lawmaker told Fox News Digital. “The media is trying to decipher the political affiliation of the Pelosi attacker, but it totally glossed over the fact that a Bernie Sanders supporter shot Steve Scalise.”
Republicans say the double standard was evident over the weekend after Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin was criticized for his response to the attack on Paul Pelosi. Youngkin told an audience at a campaign rally for a Virginia House candidate that while Republicans condemned violence, the party was still working to ensure Pelosi’s party loses the upcoming midterm election.
“Speaker Pelosi’s husband had a break-in last night in their house, and he was assaulted,” said the governor. “There’s no room for violence anywhere, but we’re going to send her back to be with him in California. That’s what we’re going to go do.”
Democrats were quick to seize on the comments as proof that Republicans were using rhetoric that led to political violence.
“A father, grandfather and husband is in brain surgery after an act of heinous political violence and at a political rally for my opponent, our governor taunts his wife because he disagrees with her politics,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.