Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meets with Pope Francis with his wife at the Vatican on October 9, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media, handout via Reuters)
The Democratic Speaker of the House was in the hospital. A Republican on the campaign trail for another politician joked about sending his wife back to San Francisco on Election Day this year to be with him more often. Paul Pelosi, husband of Nancy Pelosi, was in or just out of surgery when it was said. It had been less than 24 hours since he was attacked by a man in his home. I happened to be on an Amtrak train late Friday night and found myself scrolling social media – rarely a good idea. I don’t expect much from Twitter, but this was a whole new level of rot. People who claim things without evidence. People who promote conspiracy theories – publicly, for the whole world to see, with their names attached. When I fell down the rabbit hole, there were people who announced on their Twitter profiles that they were Christian, or Mom, or Dad.
They will never know Christians through our love if we are so proudly hateful on social media and elsewhere.
On the eve of All Saints’ Day, a total rumor about Nancy Pelosi’s husband was trending on Twitter. Some of those who posted it thought it was a triumph for free speech with Tesla owner Elon Musk taking over Twitter. Republicans were no longer forbidden to speak their mind! Is this really who Republicans want to be in 2022?
It’s one thing to ask questions that there might be more to the story than we know. (I’m also not sure we have the full story right.) It’s another to actively claim what must have happened. There is something decent about not commenting on a story until you know the facts. There is something decent about not pontificating about the husband of a political enemy while the man was being attacked, however it happened less than 24 hours before. There is something decent about praying for people who are suffering – even if you disagree with them on politics.
As I sat in horror watching Twitter that Friday night, I kept thinking about how Nancy Pelosi has talked so many times over the years about being a mother and a grandmother. (She often brought this up to put a male reporter in his place when he asked her about abortion. It happened a number of times to my colleague at National Review, John McCormack.) However confused her position on abortion is, she loves obviously her family and sees her role as wife and mother as key to her identity. She deserves better than to have her child’s father talked about in gross and cruel and scary ways.
People who consider themselves pro-life, in particular, need to pay attention to what happened in the hours and days following the Paul Pelosi news. We cannot consider ourselves pro-life and dehumanize people in such a way. Nor will we ever build a culture of life and civilization of love by making vile jokes about people, even if they are Democrats who support expanded abortion. We oppose abortion not only because it is evil, but because we love it. Women and children and men and families deserve better than abortion. That is why, in this post-Roe v. Wade America, we must reach out in new and innovative ways to ensure that mothers and families can thrive. People need to see us love – even in our political rhetoric and social media posts.
That Sunday afternoon I had tea after Mass with someone who had been to dinner the night before with a couple whose children went to school with some of the Pelosi grandchildren. Their first reaction was love of family, because they don’t have the luxury of thinking of the Pelosi’s only as “them” and “the enemy.”
Nobody has an excuse. I understand that people are angry about all sorts of things. What I saw on social media was a reminder of why anger is one of the deadly sins.
No violence in politics is acceptable. Nor gossip. The Christians—who claim to believe in Jesus, who died on the cross in the greatest injustice we have ever committed—and the mothers and fathers, and all of us who claim to care about things like virtue, must lead the way in turning the temperature down. And to pray for our political opponents, who are also people with all kinds of challenges.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-in-chief of National Review.