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Politics & Policy

Pelosi says ‘traumatizing’ attack on husband will influence her retirement plans

U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi listens while San Francisco leadership address the press regarding the Rose Pak station progress and the state of federal public transit funding at Central Subway Project Chinatown Station Plaza, at Stockton and Washington Street on Thursday, September 8, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

In her first major interview since the attack on her husband, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the incident will play a role in her decision of whether to retire if Democrats lose the House of Representatives in the Nov. 8 election. 

“When someone is assaulted in your family [...], members have to weigh that among the equities as to whether they will run,” Pelosi said in a wide-ranging and emotional interview, which touched on the Democrats’ prospects in the consequential midterm elections on Tuesday and her husband’s recovery from a “traumatizing” attack on Oct. 28. 

“Paul was not the target, and he's the one who is paying the price,” said Pelosi.

Fighting back tears at several points, Pelosi said that her husband of nearly 60 years, Paul, is “on a good path with excellent care” but faces a long recovery ahead after suffering a fractured skull, among other injuries. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has represented San Francisco in Congress since 1987. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Mr. Pelosi’s alleged attacker, David DePape, was said to be inspired by right-wing conspiracy theories and sought to break the speaker’s kneecaps, according to a federal court filing. The attack carried echoes of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, with DePape reportedly shouting, “Where’s Nancy?” before striking Mr. Pelosi in the head once police officers arrived. 

“I’ve been a target for a long time because I’m very effective,” said Pelosi, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1987 and is in her fourth term as Speaker of the House. 

Pelosi’s remarks come on the eve of a critical election that may hand Republicans control of Congress. 

Pollsters predict that Republicans—who have hammered President Biden and national Democrats for crime and high inflation—are likely to win control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. 

Pelosi said she was “optimistic” about the Democrats’ ground game heading into Tuesday and that the 50-some close races in the House will come down to turnout. 

“It’s up to the people, and whatever happens, we will respect the outcome,” she said. 

Asked about her retirement plans, Pelosi said that her “decision will be affected by what happened in the last week or two.”

“I have been blessed by my colleagues. As whip first, then leader, then Speaker of the House for four terms—that’s an honor,” said Pelosi. “The greatest honor I have, though, is to represent the people of San Francisco.”

“I never expected to run, I never expected to run for leadership—and here I am,” Pelosi said. 

Annie Gaus can be reached at