NEW YORK – For Alexandra Pelosi, the brutal attack on her father earlier this year was a culmination of vitriol that had been building for decades. Her family’s name, she says, has been weaponized for years, turned into a curse word for Republicans.
Then, in October, a man broke into the family’s San Francisco home and attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer, leaving him unconscious in a pool of his own blood.
The bubbling political rhetoric that led to that moment is chronicled in a new documentary premiering Tuesday night on HBO. The film, “Pelosi in the House," directed and produced by Alexandra Pelosi, the youngest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's five children, follows the elder Pelosi’s career over three decades.
The film offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at her political life, chronicling major milestones from her election to Congress in 1987 to becoming the first female House speaker in 2007 to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s presidential win.
“There’s a thread from the very first time they started taking ads out against Nancy Pelosi and turning her into a witch and turning our last name into a curse word. You can follow that thread 20 years later to my parents’ doorstep to my father getting attacked,” Alexandra Pelosi said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Pelosi’s film follows her mother, literally, through the Capitol and behind the scenes as she negotiates key votes for major pieces of legislation. It also depicts threats the family received, including a severed pig’s head that was delivered to the speaker's San Francisco home just days before the attack on the Capitol.
The camera was also rolling on Jan. 6 as the House speaker prepared for the certification of the presidential election and as rioters began smashing through the doors and windows, violently shoving past overwhelmed police officers, leaving many officers bruised and bloodied.
The film includes extended clips recorded as Pelosi and other congressional leaders are rushed out of the Capitol and evacuated to Fort McNair, a nearby Army base. It captures frantic leaders calling the defense secretary, attorney general, then-Vice President Mike Pence and other officials trying to get assistance to the Capitol.
Some of the footage was played during a hearing of the House panel investigating the attack on the Capitol. Alexandra Pelosi and her team provided the footage to the committee.
“When they took Nancy Pelosi out of the chamber, she didn’t even get to take her cellphone. They rushed her out. And she was making calls to the defense secretary, the attorney general, the vice president, and I thought there should be a record of this,” Alexandra Pelosi said.
“She didn’t get to take the House clerk, who has a transcript of all this, to record what was happening. This was historic what was happening, and somebody needed to have a record of what was said,” she said.
Among those historic moments: discussion about whether to move the entire Congress – all 100 senators and 435 members of the House – by bus to Fort McNair and convene the joint session there to continue the certification of the election.
For the House speaker, the attack on the Capitol was one of the worst moments of her career, as her panicking staff members fled for cover, hiding silently under tables as rioters trashed the speaker’s office and called out “Nancy!” as they searched for Pelosi.
“She thinks that the Capitol is sacred ground,” Alexandra Pelosi says of her mother. “That’s why January 6 really tore at her soul. Because to her, the Capitol is sacred ground, and the rioters literally pooped inside the sacred ground.”
Less than two years after that attack, a man broke into the Pelosi family home in San Francisco, roused the speaker's husband and reportedly demanded "Where is Nancy?” Officers arrived at the home after Paul Pelosi called 911 and they arrested the intruder, David DePape. He 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.
The Pelosi family has also received death threats. The FBI has stepped in on several cases involving threats to Pelosi’s grandchildren and Alexandra Pelosi said she receives threatening messages nearly every day.
“It was so inevitable, because the rhetoric has just amped up so much over the past few years,” Alexandra Pelosi said as she looked out the window of her New York home.
As the family gathered for Thanksgiving this year, a tactical team of police officers holding rifles lined the perimeter of the house. Alexandra Pelosi has been struggling to explain to her children why so many people want to kill their grandmother.
“My son comes into the kitchen in the morning for breakfast. He’s like, ‘Hey, did you see that that guy that said that he wanted to hang Nancy Pelosi from a lamppost got convicted?’ That’s just weird for a teenager to be talking about his own grandmother, being hung from a lamppost,” she said.
“And as the mother you’re trying to say all humanity is good. We are decent people. No, we’re not.”