Police say attack on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband was 'not a random act'

President Joe Biden has launched a passionate condemnation of what he calls the bitterness and hatred within American politics, as Robert Moore reports

A police chief has said the attack on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband was "not a random act", after the assault stoked fears about political violence ahead of the crucial November midterm elections.

Paul Pelosi, 82, was attacked and severely beaten with a hammer by an intruder who broke into the couple’s San Francisco home early on Friday, searching for the Democratic leader and shouting “where is Nancy, where is Nancy?”.

He suffered a fractured skull and injuries to his right arm and hands but is expected to fully recover.

“This was not a random act. This was intentional. And it’s wrong,” San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said.

“Our elected officials are here to do the business of their cities and their counties and their states. Their families don’t sign up for this. Everybody should be disgusted about what happened this morning," Mr Scott added.

David DePape records the nudist wedding of Gypsy Taub outside City Hall in 2013, in San Francisco. Credit: AP

The suspect, David DePape, 42, was arrested at the Pelosi home early on Friday.

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said she expected to file multiple felony charges, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and elder abuse.

It has now been reported that DePape appears to have made racist and often rambling posts online, including some that questioned the results of the 2020 election, defended former President Donald Trump and echoed QAnon conspiracy theories.

DePape, who grew up in Powell River, British Columbia, became known in Berkeley as a pro-nudity activist who had picketed naked at protests against local laws requiring people to be clothed in public.

A motive for Friday’s intrusion has not been officially determined, but three people with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that he targeted Pelosi’s home.

Police confirmed that the intruder gained entry through the back door of the home, which is in the wealthy Pacific Heights neighbourhood.

A police officer stands outside the home of Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Credit: AP

Investigators believe the intruder broke through glass-panelled doors, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Mrs Pelosi - who was in Washington DC at the time of the assault - flew back to see her husband in hospital.

US President Joe Biden described the attack as "despicable" and denounced a corrosive political climate for contributing to violence.

“There’s too much violence, political violence. Too much hatred. Too much vitriol,” Mr Biden said at a Democratic rally in Pennsylvania on Friday night.

"What makes us think that one party can talk about stolen elections, Covid being a hoax, It's all a bunch of lies, and it not affect people who may not be so well balanced."

Joe Biden condemned the attack as 'despicable'

Also expressing support for Mr Pelosi, former US President Barack Obama blamed the politics of stirring up division and amplifying anger "on platforms that often times find controversy and conflict more profitable than telling the truth."

The attack raises questions about the safety of members of Congress and their families as threats to lawmakers are at an all-time high almost two years after the deadly Capitol insurrection.

It came just 11 days ahead of midterm elections in which crime and public safety have emerged as top concerns among much of the American public.

In 2021, Capitol Police investigated around 9,600 threats made against members of Congress, and members have been violently attacked in recent years.

Former Republican Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at an event outside a Tucson grocery store in 2011, and Republican Steve Scalise was severely injured when a gunman opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball team practice in 2017.

Members of Congress have received extra money for security at their homes, but some have pushed for more protection.

Often appearing at his wife's side during formal events in Washington, Mr Pelosi is a wealthy investor who largely remains on the West Coast.

They have five adult children and many grandchildren, and have been married for 59 years.

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