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In the wake of the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, conspiracy theorists have attempted to blame the violent incident on everything but the very rhetoric they regularly espouse.
David Depape himself, who is facing numerous charges including attempted murder for allegedly striking Pelosi in the head with a hammer after breaking into his San Francisco home, was found to have promoted dozens of far-right conspiracy theories on social media following his arrest.
On a personal Facebook account and two separate blogs, Depape showed, among other things, support for QAnon while spreading antisemitic content. Depape later admitted to police that he had broken into the home to attack Nancy Pelosi.
Conservatives, seemingly concerned that Depape’s rhetoric would reflect poorly on them given their tacit support of QAnon as well as their own calls for violence against the House Speaker during the Capitol riot, scrambled to craft alternate theories on the attack.
Yet despite conservatives’ attempts and subsequent efforts to deny proven falsehoods, investigators have thoroughly debunked every theory they’ve promoted. Here are the top false claims currently circulating online.
1) Depape was wearing only underwear
One of the first claims to take hold was the allegation that Depape had broken into the Pelosi residence wearing only underwear. The claim originated from a single journalist and news organization that later retracted the claim.
The criminal complaint against Depape confirmed that the suspect was wearing shorts while Pelosi, who was in bed at the time of the break-in, was wearing underwear and a shirt.
The singular false claim regarding Depape’s attire, however, launched numerous other unfounded accusations. The debunked underwear theory led conservatives to invent the claim that Depape was actually a sex worker hired by Pelosi, despite no evidence to support it.
2) Pelosi was friends with Depape
Another claim spread by conservatives, which was used to bolster the false sex worker allegation, was that Pelosi and Depape were acquaintances. The claim was based on a transcript of the 911 call Pelosi made when reporting the attack.
According to the theory, Pelosi told first responders on the phone that he was friends with Depape. The claim was spread online by major right-wing figures such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
But on the 911 call Pelosi clearly states that Depape referred to himself as a friend and was clearly “confused.” Pelosi confirmed to police that he did not know the intruder.
3) Depape lived in a home with LGBTQ flags and was therefore left-wing
Despite Depape’s years-long descent from left-leaning hemp seller to far-right conspiracy theorist, conservatives have attempted to ignore all of his recent writings and instead point to his perceived beliefs from more than a decade ago.
A photo spread online of a home that conservatives say Depape lived in also showed a Black Lives Matter sign as well as a rainbow LGBTQ flag. Yet the criminal complaint against Depape shows that he did not live in that Berkeley home at the time of the attack.
But even with Depape’s own admissions, writings, and even a manifesto citing anti-government rhetoric and COVID-19 conspiracy theories, conservatives will continue to craft their own version of reality.
Why it matters
The incident surrounding the attack on Paul Pelosi shows how facts often don’t matter to those who are more concerned about preserving their world view.