What happened to Paul Pelosi—a vile assault at the hands of a crazy person—is not exactly a mystery. Nor is it a laughing matter. So why are various conservative personalities, including former President Donald Trump, pretending otherwise?
"It's weird things going on in that household in the last couple of weeks," Trump said during a Tuesday interview on conservative radio. "You know, probably, you and I are better off not talking about it. The glass, it seems, was broken from the inside to the out and, you know, so, it wasn't a break in, it was a break out."
This is totally false.
Last week, on the night of October 28, a mentally ill homeless man named David DePape used a hammer to break into the Pelosi residence in San Francisco, California. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) was not at home, so DePape roused her husband, Paul. DePape had brought zip ties and duct tape, intending to make Nancy his prisoner. We know all this because he confessed it to the police after they apprehended him. Law enforcement found the zip ties. The glass was broken in the direction of a break-in, not a break-out.
Pelosi, thankfully, was able to evade DePape long enough to place a 911 call; at some point—perhaps just as the police were arriving—a scuffle broke out over the hammer and DePape struck Pelosi with it. He suffered a skull fracture and other injuries, but is expected to make a full recovery.
None of these details are in any serious doubt. It's what Pelosi says happened, it's what the police say happened, and importantly, it's what DePape says happened. The alleged perpetrator confessed to the police. He admitted to investigators that he wanted to kidnap Nancy Pelosi and "break her kneecaps." We are still learning more about DePape's motivations, but people who knew him have already come forward to attest to his mental illness. An ex-girlfriend described him as "constantly paranoid, thinking people were after him."
"He is mentally ill," she said. "He has been mentally ill for a long time."
This is an open-and-shut case of a disturbed individual acquiring vague political ideas and attacking a high-level politician's home and spouse. An overwhelming amount of evidence supports the official narrative, and thus it is indefensible to propose zanier ideas about what might have happened.
Incredibly, many right-wing figures have implied or outright suggested that the encounter between DePape and Pelosi was a gay hookup gone wrong. The pieces of evidence they cite in favor of this theory—that DePape was also in his underwear, that he was known to Pelosi beforehand, that there was another person in the house, and that the glass was broken the wrong way—have all been debunked. There was no other person in the house; Pelosi was in a state of undress because he was dragged out of bed in the middle of the night; if Pelosi's comments during the 911 phone call sounded off, it's because he was trying not to tip off DePape.
Trump was clearly gesturing at the hookup conspiracy theory when he referred to "weird things going on in that household" that "you and I are better off not talking about it." Donald Trump Jr. evidently thinks the matter is funny enough to joke about, as does right-wing celebrity Gina Carano. If a deranged leftist had broken into the home of a conservative political figure or Supreme Court justice, you can bet they would be singing a different tune.
"Too many on the right have indulged in disgusting conspiracy theories about the assault," chides conservative writer David Marcus in an excellent piece for The Spectator.
Perhaps most embarrassingly, Elon Musk—fresh off his acquisition of Twitter—also gave oxygen to this conspiracy theory, firing off a just-asking-questions tweet that included a link to a conspiracy site advancing the hookup conspiracy. "There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye," he wrote.
The mainstream media are currently throwing a temper tantrum over Musk's Twitter takeover, and for the most part is not acquitting themselves well. But concerns about Musk will become more sympathetic if he makes a habit of spreading easily debunked conspiracy theories. And his stated goal of making Twitter a freer and fairer place for all kinds of speech would be undermined by his own behavior.
The impulse to question mainstream media narratives is a very good one, and has served alternative writers and thinkers well in many high-profile cases: Kyle Rittenhouse, Covington Catholic, Jussie Smollett, and so on. In general, it's smart to wait for facts to accumulate before passing judgment one way or another, and to be careful when it comes to sweeping proclamations. But it's now perfectly obvious what happened to Paul Pelosi, and pretending otherwise is ghoulish.