Former President Obama warned during a campaign rally in Nevada on Wednesday that violent incidents like last week’s attack on Paul Pelosi will continue in a political climate rife with “demonizing” of opponents.
“This increasing habit of demonizing political opponents creates a dangerous climate,” Obama said.
Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), suffered a skull fracture after a suspect allegedly broke in to the couple’s home before dawn on Friday looking for the Speaker, who was in Washington, D.C. at the time, and struck her husband with a hammer.
Obama at Tuesday’s rally indicated he spoke with Paul Pelosi following the incident, adding that “he’s going to be okay.”
“Elected officials who do not explicitly reject or participate in over-the-top rhetoric, if that’s what they’re doing instead, if they just ignore or make light of that kind of violence, or if they encourage their supporters to stand outside voting places armed with guns and dressed in tactical gear, if that’s the environment that we create, more people are going to get hurt,” the former president added.
Arizona officials raised alarm last month after two armed individuals dressed in tactical gear were found outside a ballot drop box in a politically critical county last month, warning it may amount to illegal voter intimidation. Many Republicans have called on supporters doubting the upcoming election’s fairness to serve as poll watchers.
The attack against Paul Pelosi was met with condemnation from Democrats and some prominent Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and former Vice President Pence, although the parties have pointed fingers for who is to blame.
Others, including former President Trump and Elon Musk, have spread conspiracy theories about the incident, while several more — including Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake — have poked fun at the attack.
The attack also raised fresh questions about lawmaker security as the U.S. Capitol Police grapples with an increasing barrage of threats against lawmakers and their families.
The agency’s threat assessment team received 9,625 threats and directions of interest in 2021 and 8,613 in 2020, well above years past.
A man unsuccessfully tried to stab Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) in July during an event for his gubernatorial campaign, which came days after a man was arrested near the home of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) for allegedly threatening to kill the congresswoman.