In an interview Sunday with CNN’s Dana Bash, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) denounced the violent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as “disgusting” and “horrible” — but he refused to condemn the conspiracy theories about U.S. elections that are alleged to have incited the assailant.
Bash reminded Scott that the intruder bludgeoned Paul Pelosi with a hammer in his San Francisco home because he “embraced conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.” She prefaced her question — “should Republicans do more to reject” these theories — with a recent clip of President Joe Biden.
“It’s one thing to condemn the violence, but you can’t condemn the violence unless you condemn those people who continue to argue the election was not real, that it’s being stolen, that all the malarkey that’s being put out there to undermine democracy,” Biden told reporters Saturday.
Scott agreed that “we have to condemn the violence” but quickly pivoted to urge his fellow officials and constituents that “we have to do everything we can…to make sure people feel comfortable about these elections,” alluding to the Nov. 8 midterms.
“We’ve got to do everything we can to get people comfortable that this election in nine days is going to be free and fair, that people’s votes are all going to be counted fairly, that they’re not going to be diluted,” Scott told Bash. “I’ve tried to… get people to make sure we’re ready.”
Bash reminded Scott that most of his Republican colleagues, including those who were in the Donald Trump White House, agreed the 2020 presidential election was fair. She said this apparently hasn’t stopped inspiring individuals, such as assault suspect David DePape, whose social media accounts were rife with right-wing conspiracy theories, and she asked Scott if curbing this insidious rhetoric was important to the senator.
“I think what’s important is everybody do everything we can to make these elections fair,” Scott responded. “We’ve got Hillary Clinton saying the 2024 election is going to be stolen, we’ve got Stacey Abrams saying she didn’t lose, so my job is [to] do everything I can to get people to feel comfortable these elections are fair.”
DePape, 42, is accused of attacking Paul Pelosi, 82, in his home early Friday, beating him with a hammer and causing a skull fracture and other serious injuries. He demanded to know where his wife was and tried to tie Pelosi up until she returned, but he was arrested after Paul Pelosi surreptitiously called 911 and police arrived amid the attack. Nancy Pelosi was out of town, accompanied by her security detail.
Scott said his “heart goes out to Paul Pelosi” and that violent extremism “has to stop,” but he refused to consider that his own party’s rhetoric influences people like DePape, who appeared to share QAnon memes online about COVID-19 vaccines and the 2020 presidential election being stolen.
Instead, Scott urged viewers to remain vigilant, a directive that could also buoy their paranoia.
“I’m telling people get out to vote, go be a poll watcher, and when we have the opportunity, let’s make our election laws safer,” Scott told Bash. “Let’s make sure that you have voter ID, you don’t have ballot harvesting, you have monitored ballot boxes. That makes people feel more comfortable that the elections are going to be fair.”