"Where's Nancy?" Trajectory of a GOP smear on Pelosi

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

A political attack that started with a posting on the website of Rep. John Boehner's political action committee -- promoting the claim that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has made no recent public appearances -- then moved to the Drudge Report website and ended up in reports on Fox News and MSNBC, with MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell asking of Pelosi, "Where's she been the last week?"

As noted by the weblog Think Progress on November 2, Internet gossip Matt Drudge, in an article that day on TheDrudgeReport.com, "float[ed] a conspiracy theory that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has gone into hiding" in the days leading up to the November 7 midterm election. Drudge appears to have taken his cue from House Republican leaders, which first promoted the claim that she has made no recent public appearances. But as Think Progress noted, Pelosi appeared on November 1 at a campaign rally in San Francisco with former President Bill Clinton and was also interviewed by CNN, which aired portions of the interview on that day. Nonetheless, this latest smear has spread to cable news and was reported as fact on Fox News and MSNBC, whose chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell asked of Pelosi, "Where's she been the last week?" NBC News producer and congressional correspondent Mike Viqueira responded by rejecting out of hand the suggestion that Pelosi has been absent.

The claim that Pelosi was "[a]lmost entirely absent from the campaign trail" appears to have originated with The Freedom Project, House Majority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) political action committee, which claims that its purpose is "to preserve and expand a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives." An October 31 posting on The Freedom Project's website, titled "Where is Nancy Pelosi?" read:

Where is Democrat [sic] Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)? As CongressDaily reported yesterday, "House Minority Leader Pelosi's schedule for the week remained uncertain today with nothing confirmed." Almost entirely absent from the campaign trail, many are left wondering why ...

  • Could it be because Pelosi didn't want to have to defend Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) insults directed at our men and women bravely defending our country in Iraq?
  • Could it be because Pelosi didn't want to have to answer questions about Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) coming unglued with a profanity-laced tirade after his scheme to raise taxes on working families was exposed further?
  • Could it be because Pelosi is embarrassed about the Democrats' shameful record [sic] national security, including voting AGAINST the Patriot Act, AGAINST bringing terrorists to justice, and AGAINST the terrorist surveillance program?
  • Could it be because Pelosi would prefer not to discuss the Democrats' abysmal record on border security?

While Pelosi is trying to run out the clock instead of engaging in the issues that matter to the American people, Republican candidates are focused on their individual races, fine-tuning their get-out-to-vote operation, and making their case about Republicans' efforts to keep taxes low, strengthen border security, and keep America safe.

Drudge posted his item asking "Where's Nancy?" on November 2. On the November 3 edition of MSNBC News Live, O'Donnell raised the issue. Viqueira responded by noting that Pelosi "has been conducting some interviews, a fundraiser, she's still been flying around the country doing some fundraising events." He further noted, "There have been Republicans -- operatives have been sending out e-mails over the past week saying 'Where's Pelosi?' "

From the November 3 edition of MSNBC News Live:

O'DONNELL: What about Nancy Pelosi? We were just showing pictures. She would be the speaker -- likely be the speaker of the House if Democrats win control. Where's she been the last week?

VIQUEIRA: Uh, she's been around. She had a big fundraiser with Bill Clinton in San Francisco. She's been conducting interviews with media. There had been Republicans -- operatives have been sending out emails over the last week saying, "Where's Pelosi? Where's Pelosi? Where's Pelosi?" She has been conducting some interviews, a fundraiser, she's been still flying around the country doing some fundraising events, but largely stuck to San Francisco. Her daughter is expected to deliver, incidentally, Nancy Pelosi's sixth grandchild just about -- right about now, and if that happens on Election Day, Nancy Pelosi's surely going to be nowhere to be found, Norah.

O'DONNELL: Oh, I find that hard to believe, Mike.

VIQUEIRA: No, that's what they're saying. She --

O'DONNELL: Really?

VIQUEIRA: She will be AWOL on Election Day if Alexandra, her daughter, delivers Nancy Pelosi's -- what would be Nancy Pelosi's sixth grandchild.

On the November 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy asked: "Have you noticed we really haven't seen much of Nancy Pelosi?" Responding to Doocy's false claim that "the last time people saw her was at an October 21st fundraiser" and comment that "the only place she's [Pelosi] really factoring in is she is starring in a whole bunch of GOP ads," co-host Gretchen Carlson took the attack a step further, baselessly suggesting that "the Democratic machinery has asked her, or demanded that she lay low in the days before the election."

From the November 3 edition of Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: But one other figure from the Democratic Party. Have you noticed we really haven't seen much of Nancy Pelosi?

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Nowhere.

DOOCY: A couple of -- what was it? About 10 days ago, she showed up in that blistering sound bite-fest on 60 Minutes, and she said a lot of stuff that rankled a lot of people. And she has been laying low, and the last time people saw her was at an October 21st fundraiser, and a few pictures were made there. But in the meantime, the only place she's really factoring in is she is starring in a whole bunch of GOP ads, and the message is: "Speaker Pelosi, is this the woman you want running the U.S. House of Representatives?"

CARLSON: And that's probably why the Democratic machinery has asked her, or demanded that she lay low in the days before the election, because that's really the Republican spin: Do you want Pelosi in charge?

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, MSNBC
Person
Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, Norah O'Donnell
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Progressives, Propaganda/Noise Machine, 2006 Elections
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