Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, tweeted and deleted an unfounded anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theory Sunday morning about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband from a website that has a history of publishing false information.
Musk responded to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she tweeted out a Los Angeles Times story about how David DePape, the suspect in the attack on Paul Pelosi, had spread far-right conspiracy theories.
Clinton tweeted the link to that story along with the message: “The Republican Party and its mouthpieces now regularly spread hate and deranged conspiracy theories. It is shocking, but not surprising, that violence is the result. As citizens, we must hold them accountable for their words and the actions that follow.”
Musk wrote to Clinton at 8:15 a.m. Sunday, linking to a story published on a right-wing website called the Santa Monica Observer that questioned the circumstances of the attack on Pelosi, according to an archived version of the story. “There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” he wrote. (The website was no longer accessible late Sunday morning.)
Musk deleted the tweet by early Sunday afternoon. As of late Sunday morning, it had more than 24,000 retweets and more than 86,000 likes, and it was quickly gaining more traction.
The fact-checking website Media Bias/Fact Check rates the Santa Monica Observer as a “questionable source” based on “the routine publication of false and misleading information and the use of poor sources.”
Media Bias/Fact Check said the website’s article about the attack “appears to be fake and defamatory.”
Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
San Francisco police officials shared information with NBC News that directly contradicts the claims in the story Musk linked to.
Police said only two people — Pelosi and the attacker — were at the home at the time of the incident, contradicting information shared at a news conference Friday that suggested a third person might have opened the door or been in the house, which the Santa Monica Observer reported.
Police officials characterized the incident as a “violent break-in” and said Pelosi and the suspect did not know each other before the incident, contrary to false claims reported by the Santa Monica Observer.
Police added that zip ties were found at the scene but did not specify how many or their intended purpose.
Robert Rueca, a public information officer for the San Francisco Police Department, said earlier Sunday that the incident report is not being released because of the investigation is active.
The Santa Monica Observer has also published fake stories that falsely reported that Clinton died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and Democrats had been using a body double since then and that Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, was appointed to a nonexistent position in the Interior Department during the Trump administration.
The publisher of the website, David Ganezer, unsuccessfully ran for the Santa Monica City Council in 2010 and 1988, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press. He is a registered Republican, voting records show.
Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter was finalized late last week. He has said he will loosen rules about what kind of speech is allowed on the platform, prompting concerns that the changes could drive users and advertisers away.
DePape is accused of attacking Pelosi, 82, with a hammer after having broken into their home in California early Friday. He was searching for the House speaker, who was in Washington, D.C., at the time, two sources said.
Police arrived after Pelosi called 911 when the attacker was not looking.
Pelosi suffered a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands, said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for the speaker. He underwent successful surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, Hammill said Friday.
Police said DePape will be charged with attempted homicide, among other charges.
A federal law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said the criminal investigation, which is being led by San Francisco police, is expected to result in state charges in San Francisco Superior Court as early as Monday or Tuesday.
Federal investigators are conducting a parallel investigation to determine whether he will also face any federal charges.
Officials have said they are still working to determine a motive.
Andrew Blankstein contributed.