Paul Pelosi attack: rightwing pundits backtrack after release of police video
Conservative commentators were forced to backtrack over conspiracy theories and jokes about the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, after the release of police video and audio last week.
Related: Police body-camera video of Paul Pelosi hammer attack released
One Fox News commentator had to retreat from his claim there was no “evidence of a breaking and entering” when his host pointed out that footage of the attacker breaking into Pelosi’s home was playing on screen at the time.
“Got it,” Brian Claypool said. “Yeah. OK. Can’t we talk more about what is the DoJ doing?”
The Department of Justice has charged Pelosi’s attacker, David DePape, with assault and attempted kidnapping. The 42-year-old also faces state charges including attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty.
Pelosi, 82, was attacked in his San Francisco home in late October, a time when his wife, Nancy Pelosi, was still speaker of the US House. According to tapes released by the police, the attacker said he was looking for her. She was not present. Her husband suffered a fractured skull and injuries to his hand and arm.
Republican leaders including Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell condemned the attack.
But prominent rightwingers including Donald Trump Jr, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, the Tesla and Twitter owner Elon Musk and Republican members of Congress including Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene eagerly spread jokes, misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Joe Biden said such reactions showed the Republicans were “extremely extreme”.
Jill Filipovic, a Guardian columnist, wrote that though the attack “should shock the conscience of the nation … it has shown just how immune to human decency and empathy the Trumpist right has become”.
Last week, a judge in San Francisco ordered the release of police and surveillance footage. On Friday, the footage played widely on TV and online.
Musk said sorry – in answer to a tweet in which Juanita Broaddrick, an author who accuses Bill Clinton of rape, said the Pelosi footage showed what was “still a questionable and bizarre situation between two men in their underwear”. Other users pointed out that the footage showed neither man was wearing only underwear.
Perhaps the most awkward reaction, however, came from Claypool, who according to his own website is “a nationally regarded trial attorney, trusted media personality, and a genuine ally to those who have endured sexual abuse and faced civil injustice”.
Referring to a conspiracy theory which holds that Pelosi let DePape into his home, Claypool said: “The question they’ve not talked about is, and nobody wants to talk about, but let’s do it, is did Paul Pelosi know this guy?”
Claypool pointed to the fact the footage shows Pelosi with a drink in his hand. The commentator also claimed a 911 call also released showed Pelosi to be “kind of passively in fear, it didn’t sound like he was in fear for his life”.
Things started to go wrong for Claypool when his Fox News host, Sandra Smith, said: “Wasn’t that an effort to keep the attacker calm, potentially?
“I think that’s the way a lot of us interpreted that 911 call … that this was somebody who had 911 on the line and that Pelosi was trying to convey that he was in distress, that he was in immediate danger, without escalating the situation with the attacker.
“And, by the way, there’s clear footage … outside of the house, showing this attacker breaking through the glass windows on the side of the house.”
Fox News rolled the footage.
“I‘m not saying that I welcome this upon him,” Claypool said. “What I’m talking about is we just want transparency over what happened. Why did it take so long to get the video footage?”
Instead of cutting his losses there, Claypool switched tack.
“The other issue,” he said, “is, look, where is the evidence of a breaking and entering?”
Smith said: “There’s video of him breaking into the house.”
Claypool said: “I haven’t seen video of him breaking into the house.”
Smith said: “It’s on the screen right now. I assume it’s with the hammer you later see [the attacker] with. This is clear video that we have been given outside of the house. The attacker is on the right side of the screen, breaking through the house.”
Claypool said: “Got it.”
Smith’s co-host, John Roberts, said: “He’s clearly using that to break in.”
Claypool said: “Yeah. OK. But can’t we talk more about what is the DoJ doing?”
The attorney then attempted to compare justice department treatment of the Pelosi attack with “the Hunter Biden thing, with the Mar-a-Lago search warrant” – central Republican attack lines about the conduct of the president’s son and an FBI raid on Donald Trump’s home in search of classified documents.
Claypool insisted he was “not questioning” that Paul Pelosi “feared for himself”. But, he said: “All I’m saying is a complete lack of transparency again, by the DoJ and people just want transparency on high-profile investigations involving high-profile Democratic officials.”