GUEST COMMENTARY - This was an attempted murder by a right-wing zealot propelled by the rantings of a former president and his followers, like Fox News' Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, radio reactionaries like Glenn Beck, and Proud Boy lunatics.
Donald Trump did not personally break into Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco home at 2:30 am on Friday, but you might say he was there in spirit. He certainly is complicit in the attempted murder, just as he bears primary responsibility for the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol building and the deaths and serious injuries of several law enforcement officers trying to protect the Capitol from the right-wing mob he inspired and cheered on.
The suspect, 42-year-old David DePape, entered the Pelosi home shouting "Where's Nancy?" the same words used by the January 6 mob when the rioters were trying to find Pelosi so they could attack and perhaps even murder her. On Friday, she wasn't home (she was in DC), but her 82-year-old husband Paul was there. The police apprehended DePape in the house, soon after he had bludgeoned Paul Pelosi with a hammer, causing a fractured skull and serious injuries to his right arm and hands, requiring surgery. (Pelosi had called 911 when he heard someone break into the house). DePape told police he was "waiting for Nancy."
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott called the attack "intentional." DePape was booked on suspicion of attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, burglary and destroying a cellphone to prevent someone from seeking help.
It possible that DePape was mentally ill, but his views and behavior were certainly provoked by Trump and the right-wing white supremacist movement that he has encouraged and enabled ever since his 2016 campaign.
On DePape's Facebook page he posted right-wing conspiracy theories that Trump has spread and that have been featured on white supremacist and ultra-right media: The 2020 election was stolen. Covid vaccines are deadly. George Floyd, the Black Minneapolis man murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin, actually died of a drug overdose. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol was a "FARCE." He reposted videos by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell, lying that the 2020 election was stolen.
His blog included varieties of right-wing craziness, including hatred of Jews, Blacks, and trans people, anti-vaccine conspiracies, and support for QAnon (an absurd theory that Trump is at war with a cabal of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child sex ring and control the world). Over a ten day period, in close to 20 posts, he echoed a number of anti-Semitic diatribes. He called the Holocaust a "Holohoax." He posted a video that claimed that the war in Ukraine is a ploy for Jews to buy land.
In September 2020, rather than condemn the growing wave of white supremacist violence, Trump said: "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by." That was his way of encouraging them. Four months later, after his speech repeating the same lies, hundreds of his cult followers illegally stormed the Capitol building, where Pelosi was presiding over a joint session of Congress. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), a Trump clone, has said that Pelosi was a "traitor" and that treason is "a crime punishable by death."
In that political climate, it is no surprise that Trump's followers have tried to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and murder House Speaker Pelosi, among other liberal and Democratic politicians.
Conservative and even some mainstream media outlets have tried to fold the break-in and attempted murder at Pelosi's house as part of a growing crime wave in San Francisco. But this was not a car-jacking, or home robbery, or shooting rooted in the desperation caused by poverty, or as part of the drug trade, or among rival gangs. This was an attempted murder by a right-wing zealot propelled by the rantings of a former president and his followers, like Fox News' Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, radio reactionaries like Glenn Beck, and Proud Boy lunatics.
Indeed, it is no accident that the number of hate crimes, including shootings and assaults against Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, and LGBTQ people, has escalated since Trump began campaigning for president in 2016. Threats and efforts to kidnap and/or kill liberal politicians is part of the same dynamic. According to Capitol police, threats to members of Congress increased 144% between 2017 and 2022. Pelosi has been the target of the most threats.
DePape will probably go to prison for his awful crime. But Donald Trump should be in the next cell. He may be living in his mansion in Florida, far from San Francisco, but the blood on the hammer that was intended for Nancy Pelosi and almost killed her husband is also on Trump's hands.
(Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College. He joined the Occidental faculty in January 1993 after serving for nine years as Director of Housing at the Boston Redevelopment Authority and senior policy advisor to Boston Mayor Ray Flynn. He is the author of "The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame" (2012) and an editor (with Kate Aronoff and Michael Kazin) of "We Own the Future: Democratic Socialism, American Style"and co-author of "Baseball Rebels: The Players, People and Social Movements That Shook Up the Game and Changed America" (2022). This article was featured in CommonDreams.org.)