Earlier this week, authorities released bodycam footage from the attack on Paul Pelosi last October, prompting Twitter owner Elon Musk to apologize for floating an unfounded theory about the attack when it first happened.
Sources across the spectrum have covered many of Musk’s actions since his takeover of Twitter, with a few notable exceptions. The Twitter Files releases have been covered prominently by outlets AllSides rates as having a bias on the right, and less so by left-rated outlets. But when it came to this recent apology from Musk, the opposite occurred. Left-rated sources covered the apology frequently, while AllSides didn’t find any right-rated sources that reported on it.
- Covered the story more than other sides
- Used bias by spin and slant
- Ignored the story
- Fox criticized NBC's initial unfounded report
The bodycam video from one of the police officers who arrived at the scene at Pelosi’s San Francisco home shows the suspect, David DePape, standing fully clothed at the front door, holding Pelosi, who is in a t-shirt and his underwear, by the wrist. Upon being commanded by officials to drop the hammer, he swings at Pelosi, fracturing his skull, and is then tackled by law enforcement. DePape now faces attempted murder charges.
Until earlier this week, the bodycam footage had not been released. Voices on all sides had condemned the violence, but due to the attack’s unusual nature, some pundits, particularly right-rated ones, seemed to be left with more questions than answers when the news originally broke, and were suspicious of the narrative given by police and repeated in the media. The unfounded theory that gained the most traction was that DePape was a male sex worker whom Pelosi had hired and then gotten into an altercation with about payment, hence why he was in his underwear.
There’s no evidence of this. However, the theory was embraced by some, most notably Elon Musk.
Musk shared on Twitter an opinion article from the Santa Monica Observer (not rated by AllSides), an alternative news site with a history of promoting unfounded theories, breaking down the aforementioned theory. Musk said alongside the retweet that there “might be more to this story than meets the eye.” In the article, The Observer said Musk’s tweet led to significantly higher viewership than they were used to getting.
Earlier this week, as the bodycam footage spread, conservative commentator Juanita Broaddrick tweeted, “Idiots on the left want @elonmusk to apologize to the Pelosis. For what? It is still a questionable and bizarre situation between two men in their underwear.”
Musk replied to the tweet, saying, “Nonetheless, I apologize.” When asked by another user what he was apologizing for, Musk shared a screenshot of the now-deleted tweet.
How the Media Covered It
The apology drew attention from several left-and-center-rated media outlets, including The Independent (Lean Left), HuffPost (Left), Fortune (Center), Gizmodo (Lean Left), and Business Insider (Lean Left). Meanwhile, no outlets rated as Lean Right or Right by AllSides have covered it. (Did we miss one? Email us.)
This is an example of bias by omission, a form of media bias in which outlets elect to not cover a story for one reason or another, similar to what we witnessed earlier this week by left-rated outlets that ignored the Project Veritas and Pfizer story.
Some reports from left-rated sources could also be accused of bias by spin and slant.
The Independent’s headline, for example, called Musk’s apology “half-hearted,” an example of when a journalist inserts their own subjective judgment into the news. Gizmodo’s article says that “Though Musk may have apologized to the Pelosi family, he still stopped short of unequivocally condemning the actual details of the conspiracy, details that previous reporting has proven were also baseless.”
Both articles frame Musk’s remarks as incomplete or disingenuous, implying without evidence that Musk’s apology wasn’t sincere, and inserting analysis presented as fact.
While not offering direct coverage of Mr. Musk’s apology, Fox News (Right) took a different angle towards the theory, elevating critics’ calls for transparency from NBC News (Lean Left), which retracted NBC Bay Area reporter Miguel Almaguer’s original report on the attack.
When the attack first happened, Almaguer reported that DePape and Pelosi had been together inside the home for 30 minutes before police arrived on scene, and that Pelosi had not been in immediate danger, a report that was later deleted by NBC. Almaguer was later suspended by NBC News for “inaccuracies” with his reporting. The network didn’t explain specifically what they believed the inaccuracies were.
Fox highlights that some critics believe Almaguer’s reporting and opaque termination could fuel further unfounded speculation about what happened. This could also be viewed as story choice bias on Fox’s part, since the two networks are competitors.
The video of the attack likely cleared up some questions for news consumers, but others may remain. As you continue to read about this and other controversial or complex stories, it’s important to ensure that you’re seeing all sides of the spectrum.
Read our other recent media bias alerts on the AP’s new stance on saying “the French,” and the Biden classified documents scandal.
Andy Gorel is the AllSides Weekend News Editor. He has a Center bias.
This blog was reviewed by Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias), Daily News Editor Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left bias), and Julie Mastrine, Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings (Lean Right bias).