A growing number of Democrats are openly blaming Republicans for failing to rein in a rise in violent rhetoric in the wake of an assault on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, who survived with serious injuries.
“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,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said on Saturday morning. “And the Republican Party’s response is to either ignore it or belittle it.”
As police continue to investigate the attack, several of Pelosi’s fellow Democrats are pointing fingers at their opponents in Congress — accusing Republican leaders of largely sidestepping the issue of political violence and rising threats for years. Some also called out what they saw as a lackluster public response to the assault, including from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
“Yesterday, a man sharing that member’s rhetoric tried to assassinate the Speaker and her spouse,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezsaid Saturday morning. Then, referring to McCarthy, she wrote: “What has @GOPLeader said? Nothing. This is who he is.”
In the hours after Pelosi’s husband, Paul, was assaulted, dozens of Republicans — from former Vice President Mike Pence to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — condemned the attack and wished him a quick recovery.
The response from McConnell’s House GOP counterpart was more muted. Rather than McCarthy issuing a statement himself, a spokesman for the GOP leader provided statements to reporters when asked, but none that have yet been posted to his social media accounts as other Republicans did. (A McCarthy spokesman said on Friday: “Leader McCarthy reached out to the Speaker to check in on Paul and said he’s praying for a full recovery and is thankful they caught the assailant.”)
Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the No. 2 House Republican, offered a more forceful response, tweeting from his account: “Disgusted to hear about the horrific assault on Speaker Pelosi’s husband Paul” before adding: “Let’s be clear: Violence has no place in this country.”
Political violence is personal for Scalise. He suffered life-threatening injuries after a politically motivated gunman opened fire on Scalise and a group of other House Republicans who were practicing for the congressional baseball game in 2017. The third-ranking House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), also issued a statement, calling for the assailant to “be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Both Omar and Ocasio-Cortez are among the GOP’s most popular political targets, often appearing alongside Pelosi in attack ads against Democrats. All three women have spoken about the escalation of threats they’ve faced in the Donald Trump era.
For Ocasio-Cortez, that included an anime video created last year by a fellow member of Congress, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), that shows him killing her. Gosar was later censured by the House, and while McCarthy privately told members it was wrong, he did not vote to punish his colleague.
In her Saturday tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said: “@GOPLeader defended him.”
The blame didn’t stop at McCarthy. Another Democrat, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), started a Twitter spatwith the firebrand GOP lawmaker, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), after he was unsatisfied with her condemnation of the Pelosi attack.
“YOU called for Nancy Pelosi to be executed,@RepMTG,” an irate McGovern wrote. “YOU said she should be hung for treason.”
The attack comes in the final two weeks of a tense midterm election, where both Republicans and Democrats have vilified their opponents in campaign ads. And Democrats say it’s that rhetoric — the GOP’s demonization of Pelosi in decades of ads — that has escalated threats against her and her family.
For instance, the House GOP’s top super PAC has highlighted or mentioned Pelosi in 121 TV ads in the last week alone, according to Democrats tracking the issue. In all, Pelosi was mentioned in 860 ads since the start of this midterm cycle.
The accused assailant, a 42-year-old California man, had asked “Where is Nancy?” before his assault of her husband.
President Joe Biden on Friday evening directly tied those words to chants from pro-Trump rioters as they overran the Capitol complex on Jan. 6, 2021.
“We need to say it out loud,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). “Militia maniacs, and other rightwing domestic terrorists have exploded because Republicans have spent years winking, nodding, and endorsing their extremism.”
Olivia Beavers and Ally Mutnick contributed.