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RNC chair laments ‘unfair’ connections between GOP rhetoric and Paul Pelosi assault

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel pushed back Sunday at “unfair” Democratic warnings that heated GOP political rhetoric contributed to the brutal assault of Paul Pelosi.

“You can’t say people saying ‘fire Pelosi’ or ‘take back the House’ is saying ‘go do violence.’ It’s just unfair,” McDaniel said on “Fox News Sunday” when asked about Democrats who drew a direct line between her party’s villainizing of Nancy Pelosi and the Friday home invasion that left the speaker’s husband hospitalized.

The debate over political rhetoric’s role in the Paul Pelosi attack, the perpetrator of which steeped himself in online disinformation about fraud in the 2020 election and other conspiracy theories, dominated the airwaves Sunday. On both sides of the aisle, major players broadly condemned the violence — even as they openly disagreed on the root causes, with some Republicans arguing that Democratic policies played a role.

McDaniel blamed the attack on rising crime, for which she blamed Pelosi’s party: “If this weren’t Paul Pelosi, this criminal would probably be out on the street tomorrow … This is what Democrat policies are bringing.”

Florida Sen. Rick Scott, chair of the GOP’s Senate campaign arm, separately suggested on CNN that “horrible” violence was in part a result of lower public trust in elections. (Officials on both sides of the aisle, including Trump-era attorney general William Barr, have affirmed that President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory was not affected by widespread voter fraud.)

“Be poll watchers, so you can see that elections are going to be fair,” Scott told voters. He also cited the beating last week of a canvasser for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who did not initially say he believed the attack was political but revised that in later reports.

Poll watching is not a new a practice, but it’s increasingly on the rise among conservatives and has been described as disruptive by some election officials in this cycle. Scott then called out former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams for suggesting Republicans are undermining elections.

The assailant, David DePape, broke into the Pelosi family’s San Francisco home early Friday morning and attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer, San Francisco police said. He called out “where’s Nancy?” during the invasion, according to police.

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott described the attack as “not a random act,” but police have not yet detailed a motive. DePape had zip ties with him when he entered the Pelosi home, according to a person briefed on the investigation, an element first reported by CNN.

For three days running, Republicans have fielded Democratic fury that the attack on the House speaker’s husband was related to their incendiary rhetoric — and laser focus on Nancy Pelosi. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) connected the violence to election denialism and intimidation on Sunday, saying too many Republicans have failed to speak up about the issue.

“[Nancy Pelosi] has been villainized for years, and — big surprise — it’s gone viral, and it went violent,” Klobuchar said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

New Twitter owner Elon Musk posted disinformation about the Paul Pelosi attack on Sunday morning, adding new heft to Democratic worries about whether false claims might gain a foothold on the platform under Musk’s ownership.

Asked whether the attack means Republicans should tamp down their rhetoric in attack ads leading up to next week’s midterm elections, Gov. Chris Sununu (R-N.H.) said, “I don’t think there’s any need for the attack ads.”

“Ignore the elections. She’s going to get reelected fine,” Sununu said on NBC. “I mean, let’s just make sure that she and her family are safe.” Security should be extended to other members of Congress as well, Sununu said.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) noted that former President Donald Trump has not yet publicly condemned the attack on Paul Pelosi.

“All of us in the wake of this attack on Paul Pelosi need to say that we’re going to stop demonizing folks,” Coons said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Violent rhetoric “can lead to violence by small number of Americans who think when we describe our political opponents as our enemies, we’re calling for them to be attacked,” he added.

Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.

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