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GOP gives mixed messages on Paul Pelosi attack

Republicans have responded to the recent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), with a mix of messages, some of which have prompted sharp criticism from Democrats.

Many in the GOP, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and former Vice President Mike Pence, have vocally condemned the attack.

Former President Trump has opted, in contrast, to remain silent, while responses from several other Republicans have attracted criticism from Democrats for apparently using the situation to advance a political message.

Paul Pelosi was attacked by an intruder in the Pelosis’ San Francisco home early Friday morning. Before assaulting Pelosi with a hammer, the intruder reportedly shouted, “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?”

A spokesperson for the Speaker said Friday that her 82-year-old husband underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and injuries to his right arm and hands and is expected to make a full recovery from the attack.

McConnell was quick to respond after news broke of the attack, saying he was “horrified and disgusted.”

Pence also came out strongly against the assault, calling it an “outrage.” Other party leaders, including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), who was shot during an attack at a congressional baseball practice in 2017, have similarly spoken against the violence.

However, Trump has remained silent on the issue, even as he has continued to frequently post on his social media platform Truth Social about everything from the midterm elections to the Mar-a-Lago documents lawsuit to the late singer Jerry Lee Lewis. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also avoided making any public statements about the attack in the hours after the news broke, though his spokesman told The Hill on Friday that the congressman had reached out to the Speaker to check on her husband and was praying for his recovery. 

McCarthy’s lack of a public response led Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to slam him on Twitter on Saturday for doing “nothing.”

Later Saturday, McCarthy addressed the attack in an interview on Breitbart radio, calling it “wrong” and condemning political violence.

“We’ve watched this with Lee Zeldin, we’ve watched this with Supreme Court justices, this is wrong — violence should not go. You watch what happened to Steve Scalise and others. This has got to stop,” he said.

Beyond the top rungs of the Republican Party, the response to the attack was varied.

While some Trump allies — like Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) — followed the former president’s lead and remained largely quiet on the incident, others spoke out against the attack and against political violence more broadly.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the attack on Paul Pelosi “horrific” and said he was praying for the entire Pelosi family.

“We can have our political differences, but violence is always wrong & unacceptable,” Cruz wrote on Twitter.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a tweet that he was “very upset” to hear about the attack.

“This is despicable and we are all grateful that Paul is expected to fully recover,” Graham said. “In America violence is never the answer for any grievance and every American should always be safe in their own home.”

Still others, while speaking against the attack, also used the moment to raise criticisms aimed at Democrats or, in Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) case, to bring up a prior dispute with the Speaker’s daughter.

When Paul was physically attacked by a neighbor in 2017, Christine Pelosi tweeted that his “neighbor was right.”

“No one deserves to be assaulted. Unlike Nancy Pelosi’s daughter who celebrated my assault, I condemn this attack and wish Mr. Pelosi a speedy recovery,” Paul wrote on Twitter, a remark that was met with fierce backlash.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) was also criticized for his comment on the attack after saying during a campaign rally, “There’s no room for violence anywhere, but we’re going to send her back to be with him in California.”

And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) triggered an irate response from one of her Democratic colleagues after using her response to the attack to push back on Democrats on crime.

Greene said she was praying for Pelosi on Friday, but also responded by tweeting that “violence and crime are rampant in Joe Biden’s America.”

“It shouldn’t happen to Paul Pelosi. It shouldn’t happen to innocent Americans. It shouldn’t happen to me,” Greene said.

In response, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) turned the blame back on Greene herself.

“YOU called for Nancy Pelosi to be executed, @RepMTG. YOU said she should be hung for treason,” he tweeted. “And now that someone listened, you’re making Paul Pelosi’s attack about YOU. This is what Republicans stand for, America. It’s sick.”

Other Democrats similarly connected Republican rhetoric with the attack and a wider environment of political violence.

In a speech to Pennsylvania Democrats on Friday, President Biden tied the “despicable” assault on Paul Pelosi to lies spread by Trump and other Republicans, including the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from the former president.

“What makes us think that one party can talk about stolen elections, COVID being a hoax, that it’s all a bunch of lies, and it not affect people who may not be so well balanced,” Biden said.

“What makes us think that it’s not going to corrode the political climate? Enough is enough is enough. Every person of good conscience needs to clearly and unambiguously stand up against violence in our politics, no matter what your politics are,” he said.

Condemning the GOP response to the attack, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) pointed back at the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and shared a Los Angeles Times article reporting that Paul Pelosi’s assailant had been involved in spreading far-right conspiracies online.

“A far right white nationalist tried to assassinate the Speaker of the House and almost killed her husband a year after violent insurrectionists tried to find her and kill her in the Capitol,” she said. “And the Republican Party’s response is to either ignore it or belittle it.”

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump Glenn Youngkin GOP Ilhan Omar Jim Jordan Jim McGovern Joe Biden Josh Hawley Kevin McCarthy Kevin McCarthy Lauren Boebert Lindsey Graham Marjorie Taylor Greene Mike Pence Mike Pence Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Paul Gosar Paul Gosar Paul Pelosi paul pelosi paul pelosi attack Paul Pelosi attack Rand Paul Republican Party Ronna McDaniel Steve Scalise Steve Scalise Ted Cruz Trump
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