House Speaker Nancy Pelosi revealed how she got the news that her husband, Paul, had been attacked, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she was “very scared” when there was a knock on the door from Capitol Police.
Pelosi said in her first sit-down interview since the attack that she had been asleep in Washington, DC, after getting in the night before from San Francisco when her doorbell rang early in the morning. “I look up, I see it’s 5 [a.m. ET], they must be at the wrong apartment,” she told Cooper after he asked where she was when she got the news.
Pelosi went on to say that the doorbell rang again and then she heard “bang, bang, bang, bang, bang on the door.”
“So I run to the door, and I’m very scared,” Pelosi said, describing what unfolded. “I see the Capitol Police and they say, ‘We have to come in to talk to you.’”
Pelosi described how her thoughts went immediately to her children and her grandchildren.
“And I’m thinking my children, my grandchildren. I never thought it would be Paul because, you know, I knew he wouldn’t be out and about, shall we say. And so they came in. At that time, we didn’t even know where he was,” she said.
The violent attack on Paul Pelosi has raised fresh concerns over threats of political violence driven by partisan animosity and increasingly hostile political rhetoric – and highlighted the potential vulnerability of lawmakers and their families in the current political climate.
During the interview, Nancy Pelosi revealed stunning details about her husband’s condition following the brutal attack and discussed the aftermath of the incident.
Pelosi also reflected on the fact that she appears to have been the intended target of the attack. “For me this is really the hard part because Paul was not the target and he’s the one who is paying the price,” she said. “He was not looking for Paul, he was looking for me,” Pelosi later said.
At points during the interview, Pelosi grew emotional. “I’ve been close to tears a number of times in this conversation,” she said.
Paul Pelosi was attacked with a hammer at the couple’s home in San Francisco by a male assailant at the end of last month, authorities have said. The assailant was searching for the speaker of the House, according to court documents.
David DePape is charged with six counts relating to the attack, including attempted murder, burglary, assault, false imprisonment and threatening the family member of a public official. He has pleaded not guilty to all state charges.
Following the attack, Paul Pelosi had surgery “to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Nancy Pelosi, said in an earlier statement. He was released from the hospital last week.
Pelosi said that her husband is “doing okay” but is in for a “long haul” recovery. “He knows he has to pace himself. He’s such a gentleman that he’s not complaining,” she said.
The speaker said that the operation her husband underwent “was a success, but it’s only one part of the recovery to a drastic head injury.”
“It takes time,” she said, reflecting on the road ahead.
Describing her husband’s head injury, Pelosi said that one piece of good news came when doctors “told us it had not pierced his brain, which can be deadly.”
Pelosi said her husband is worried about the emotional toll the attack could take on their children and grandchildren, while the family is worried about the toll on him.
“He’s so concerned about the traumatic effect on our children and our grandchildren, and we’re concerned about the traumatic effect on him,” she said.
Asked if she has talked to her husband about what was going through his mind during the attack, Pelosi said, “We haven’t quite had that conversation because any revisiting of it is really traumatizing.”
When asked if she wants to hear the 911 call her husband placed, Pelosi said, “I don’t think so. I don’t know if I’ll have to. I just don’t know. That’s all a matter on the legal side of things.” But she added, “Paul saved his own life with that call.”
Pelosi was critical of how some Republicans have reacted to the attack. “You see what the reaction is on the other side to this, to make a joke of it, and really that is traumatizing too,” she said.
“In our democracy there is one party that is doubting the outcome of the election, feeding that flame, and mocking any violence that happens. That has to stop,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi later referenced the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. “I do think there has to be some message to the Republicans to stop the disinformation,” she said. “That is without any question a source of what happened on January 6, and the denial of that, and then a source of what’s happening to me now.”
There has been bipartisan condemnation of the attack, but some prominent Republican figures have drawn scrutiny, and criticism, for their response.
Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake has argued she did not make light of the violent attack after she received backlash for joking about it and drawing laughs from her supporters at a campaign event. Lake was asked at the event about her plans to increase school safety and she said: “It is not impossible to protect our kids at school. They act like it is. Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in DC – apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection.” The crowd and moderator burst into laughter.
Nancy Pelosi also indicated that the attack on her husband will factor into her decision about her own political future after the midterm elections.
Pelosi, one of the most powerful figures in national Democratic politics, has earned a reputation as a formidable leader to House Democrats who exerts significant influence on her caucus. But speculation is intensifying in Washington over what Pelosi’s next move will be, and whether she would decide to retire, if Republicans win back the majority.
During Monday’s interview, Cooper asked Pelosi if she would confirm that she has made a decision, one way or another, about what she would do, noting that there has “been a lot of discussion about whether you’d retire if Democrats lose the House.”
The speaker said the “decision will be affected about what happened the last week or two,” prompting Cooper to ask, “Will your decision be impacted by the attack in any way?”
“Yes,” Pelosi said.
“It will?” Cooper asked.
“Yes,” Pelosi said again.
Pelosi said that she is “optimistic” ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections where control of Congress is at stake, despite the fact that many in Washington predict Republicans will take back the House.
“I’m always about owning the ground and getting out the vote and I feel confident that we’re in that position. The races are close, some of them could go one way or another,” she said.
Pelosi warned, however, that she fears democracy is on shaky ground, and said that “our democracy is on the ballot” in the elections.
“I do believe that our democracy is in danger because of what the others are saying about undermining our elections, even now as we go forward,” Pelosi warned.
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.