“It’s now clear the speaker was the target of Friday’s attack. The assailant broke into the home looking for her, reportedly shouting, “Where is Nancy?” — echoing what insurrectionists called out when they breached the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 — and saying that he would wait “until Nancy got home” as he confronted Paul Pelosi. The speaker’s husband suffered a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands that required surgery after the assailant bludgeoned him with a hammer. The attacker faces federal assault and attempted kidnapping charges. (A spokesperson for the speaker said in a statement that Paul Pelosi is expected to make a full recovery.)
Republicans have dismissed any connection between their rhetoric and the attack. Instead, they’ve blamed Democratic policies on crime and suggested that growing political violence may be the result of general anxiety around election legitimacy. Elon Musk, the billionaire Tesla CEO who was cheered by Republicans when he bought Twitter last week, has advanced a right-wing anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theory around the circumstances of the attack. Though he deleted his post, it remained on Twitter long enough to be amplified and repeated by many on the right.
Even before Pelosi became speaker, Republicans in the party and those adjacent to it have demonized her regularly, featuring her in attack ads and lambasting her on Fox News. At least one of her colleagues in the House, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), has directly indicated support for violence against her. And members of right-wing militia groups such as the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters have sought her assassination.
Police haven’t gone into further detail about the attacker’s motivations, but his Facebook posts on conspiracy theories around Covid-19 vaccines, the 2020 election, and the January 6 attack provide a window into his radicalization. Other blog posts under his name contained screeds against minorities, politicians, women, and global elites, and content related to QAnon — the false pro-Trump conspiracy theory that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles, including prominent Democrats like Pelosi, are running the world.
None of those posts reference Pelosi specifically, but all of them intersect with the ways she has been a familiar target of the right — and not just on the political fringes.”