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Will Republican Idiocy Ever End?

The Paul Pelosi Saga Is Turning into a Miscarriage of Journalism

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP

On Friday, Julio Rosas wrote how NBC News had some new developments to report regarding the attack on Paul Pelosi in his home during the early morning hours of October 28. California-based NBC reporter Miguel Almaguer, filing his piece with "The Today Show," had a number of new details about that night, delivered, he says, from "sources familiar with what unfolded in the Pelosi residence." This would indicate he spoke to someone in law enforcement with intimate knowledge of the episode that night but speaking off the record. 


Almaguer's report revealed that the behavior of Paul Pelosi was not of someone in apparent distress, as he supposedly let police in and was not behaving as if he were in danger, and had actually walked away from police and returned to reengage with David DePape, who was in his home already and then subsequently witnessed by police attacking Pelosi with the hammer. And then – Almaguer's report disappeared.

The video was taken down from "The Today Show" Twitter account and removed from the website, which now states that the video has "expired." An editor's note explains, "This piece has been removed from publication because it did not meet NBC News reporting standards." This is a rather curious announcement once you consider all of the editorial levels a report has to go through in order to make it onto the broadcast. 

This now becomes at least the third time a news outlet has reported on the Pelosi incident, only to retract their content after the fact. Add to this the police also seemingly changing their official statements, as well as the subsequent refusal of not just one but two police agencies refusing to release video footage from that evening, and you have a story built up to a national level of interest with more questions stacking up but answers becoming veiled. 

What has been an amazing development to watch is the news outlets attempting to not only frame DePape as a solidified member of the conservative right but any and all instances of false details about the attack have been attributed to "right-wing misinformation." In both of these instances, there is conflicting evidence that the press needs to ignore in order to keep a particular narrative in line.


While there are some pieces of online evidence to show a tendency of DePape's right-wing political extremism, to pretend there are no questions about his societal mindset is an act of avoidance. He lived in a bus on a property with nudists in the Castro district of San Francisco, hardly a conservative enclave. His property sported the gay pride flag and Black Lives Matter banners. He was known by neighbors to be strung out on drugs. While the press hangs on his political writings, they mostly choose to overlook his other ramblings.

- "In another post on Oct. 24, four days before the attack on Pelosi, DePape shared images of a wooden birdhouse he said he had purchased for an invisible fairy he communicated with that had begun interfering with his life."

DePape was also said to have declared himself Jesus for a year or so, and this was before or after he made claims that Jesus was actually the anti-Christ. Anyone attaching serious political thought to an individual like this is in the practice of severe projection. But creating a myth around DePape's politics is not the sole problem. The events from the night of the attack appear in dispute, and the more convoluted this story becomes, the more obstinate the press seems to become toward getting to the bottom of the truth.

A lot has been made of the desire of those on the right to deliver "misinformation" regarding the Paul Pelosi attack, but the main problem with this is that the details they attribute as being conspiratorial derived not from fever dream chatrooms but from bonafide news reports. Now understanding that yes, stories such as this frequently evolve as more information comes to light, a revealing component, in this case, is that the evolution is being seen, but it is not the result of new evidence coming to light.


The first reports of the incident stated DePape was in his underwear when police arrived. This was the report from the local affiliate KTVU, citing, at the time, details from authorities on the scene. This was corrected in later reporting and could possibly be attributed to sketchy initial details, but it stands as a curious error to come from the police. Next comes the question of what transpired when police arrived, and again the police and media are the ones delivering the confounding details.

On October 31, Politico writer Adam Wren wrote a piece condemning voices on the political right delivering misinformation on the case, such as the detail that a third party had answered the door and let in the police, who saw Pelosi and DePape already engaged. The problem: It was Wren's own site that reported this detail. In that report, the site detailed that when the police arrived on site, they "were let inside by an unknown person." Politico had to then go back and edit their initial report with a correction. The police chief had been the one to say "someone" they did not know had answered while the other two were engaged. The storyline has been altered, but no further evidence has been shown explaining the change.

Now, the approved story is that it was Pelosi who answered the door and brought in the police. The one detail not disputed is that the DePape attack on Pelosi with the hammer was witnessed by police. How did this transpire then if Pelosi brought them in? He would be expected to have stayed near police as they handled the issue with a home invader. This is where the NBC News report was suggesting Pelosi strayed from the cops, appearing less than panicked, and returned to a place where DePape was standing.


Now, this report has been memory holed by the network, but it is not done so as conflicting facts are revealed. It leads to speculation about how Pelosi allowed the police inside and then reengaged with DePape, only to become attacked. This would certainly be the kind of confusion alleviated by the release of police video of the encounter, but not only is this being held back from public viewing, but it is also a suppression of evidence the media is supporting. 

The San Francisco authorities are keeping the police body cam footage from being released, and we also learned from the Washington Post that the Capitol Police had video monitoring at the Pelosi compound, which is also being kept from public release. In a perplexing departure from journalistic practice, that paper's columnist Philip Bump is declaring that the call for the release of this video evidence is a conspiracy theory issue. Let's reflect – the call for police body cams was so there would be direct evidence for the public to witness police encounters, and this was wholly backed by the media. Now, we have the press calling to suppress the very type of evidence they previously declared as essential for the public good. Unreal.

At the alleged objective news verification site NewsGuard, they, too, took the approach of condemnation of those discussing the details, as opposed to calling for more facts to be revealed. At Newsweek, two NewsGuard writers looked at the accusation of trafficking in misinformation and blamed it on "right-wing personalities who were seeking to shift the narrative away from the notion that the attack was an act of political violence fueled by the rhetoric of the right." The news outlets providing the original misinformation are, not surprisingly, given a pass, chalking it up to "limited information and unintentional misreporting that often accompany developing news stories."


How about that for convenience; news organizations are forgiven because of the fog of developing news, but anyone attributing to those outlets becomes guilty of lying. In one case, they cite a source that linked to two stories that NewsGuard claims were debunked, except the examples shown predated those corrections. Reference a story on Monday that is corrected later on Wednesday, and you are retroactively guilty of spreading misinformation.

The amazement in all of this is that the press had the desire to build this up in an effort to use it as a cudgel against Republicans. In doing so, the Pelosi attack became a larger national story, leading to more investigation into what transpired. Now, they are facing a case with numerous problematic elements and multiple story threads that are not tied down, and journalists have to take the position that asking for facts and truth is unseemly and uncalled for. 

The press generated a story, and once they lost control of it, they turned to muzzle the monster they had created. Releasing information will lead to misinformation, presenting evidence will lead to accusations of a cover-up, and delivering the truth will create conspiracies. This is the position many in the press have taken up in order to preserve their control of the narrative. 

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