There are few political figures quite as polarizing as Nancy Pelosi. As the first and only female Speaker of the House of Representatives, she has been an inspiration for many over the years. However, she has also been at the center of a number of scandals.
Pelosi’s politics are something of a moving target as well. Some critics see her as a champion of leftwing politics standing in the way of conservative values. Ironically, leftists consider her a corporate-friendly moderate more interested in personal profit than personal principle.
This leads to the big question: who is the real Nancy Pelosi? Where does she stand on a number of major issues, and how have her stances changed over time? Keep reading to get to the bottom of this and learn more about the scandals that keep threatening to end her career!
Politics runs in Pelosi’s family
As the first female Speaker of the House, nobody can deny that Nancy Pelosi made history. Interestingly, though, politics seems to really run in the family!
She is the daughter of Thomas “Big Tommy” D’Alesandro Jr. That name may not ring any bells, but D’Alesandro Jr. was a Congressman from Maryland back in the days of World War II. Once he left congress, Pelosi’s father ended up serving as a three-time mayor of Baltimore.
Her father’s political career likely inspired Nancy Pelosi. And she may have had a bit of sibling pressure as well. Her older brother Thomas “Young Tommy” D’Alesandro III served on the Baltimore City Council and even served as mayor for one term. We can only imagine that neither Pelosi’s father nor her brother could guess she would someday have a political career that really overshadows their own!
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Pelosi’s political rise began in San Francisco
The story of Nancy Pelosi’s political rise begins with her time in San Francisco. She and her husband, Paul, moved to the city in 1969. Nancy began serving as a volunteer for the local Democratic Party, and they took advantage of her skills at fundraising.
From there, things moved pretty fast. As reported by The Guardian, she was serving as the DNC’s California committeewoman by 1976. Over the next two decades, she maintained this title while also serving as chair of the California State Democratic Party and finance chairman for their senate campaign committee. And in 1984, she chaired the host committee for the DNC convention.
While Pelosi proved a skilled politician, she had a bit of help in those days. She had the backing of Phil and John Burton, two powerful movers and shakers in San Francisco politics. After Phil Burton died, his wife Sala took his place in Congress following a special election. And it was actually a dying Sala that encouraged Pelosi to run in a special election and led her to Congress in 1987.
Pelosi had a complex relationship with George W. Bush
There was never any love lost between Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump. However, she had a more complex relationship with the previous Republican president, George W. Bush.
For example, she clashed with him on occasion and disagreed with his policies even more. She felt Bush was irresponsible towards things like financial matters and especially the conflict in the Middle East. As her spokesman told Vox, “There aren’t enough words to describe how outraged [Pelosi] was with George Bush and his policies.”
Despite this, she apparently helped stop Democratic attempts to impeach Bush in 2006. As the AP reports, she told the press and everyone else how she felt in no uncertain terms: “Impeachment is off the table.”
Somewhat ironically, Donald Trump was one of the biggest critics of this move and he felt that Bush deserved impeachment for his alleged lies to the country. His attitude towards the necessity of impeachment certainly changed by the time he was president!
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Did Pelosi lie about waterboarding?
One of the reasons that many opposed the Iraq War was the use of waterboarding to torture people for information. While the CIA preferred to call it “enhanced interrogation techniques,” it became an open secret that they regularly relied on this torture to get information from terror suspects.
Pelosi was very opposed to the Iraq War, but how did she feel about waterboarding? Depending on who you speak to, she may have lied about this matter to score political points.
According to the Washington Post, Pelosi and select other Congress members were briefed in 2002 about the CIA plans to use waterboarding. At the time, she allegedly had no objections, and the CIA claims they were encouraged to proceed with these plans.
Later, as NPR reports, Pelosi claimed she heard about waterboarding as a hypothetical scenario that Congress was told would not be used. Pelosi accused the CIA of lying about this matter. To this day, it is uncertain who was telling the truth.
Pelosi supported gay marriage despite her Catholic faith
Over the years, Nancy Pelosi has had a more complex relationship with her Catholic faith than she ever did with George W. Bush. For example, her faith would call upon her to deny marriage equality to homosexual Americans. Nonetheless, she has supported gay rights since she voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Since then, she has supported the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, supported repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and supported the Equality Act (though this has not yet passed).
This eventually came to a head in 2012 when she supported Barack Obama’s call for legalizing gay marriage. Many wondered how she could justify this given her faith. According to The Hill, Pelosi offered this surprising statement: “My religion compels me… to be against discrimination of any kind.”
A decade later, Pelosi was denied Holy Communion by the archbishop of San Francisco. This was due to her support of Roe v. Wade and underscores the ongoing conflict between her faith and her duty.
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Some question if Pelosi has benefited from inside financial information
Like many lifelong politicians, Nancy Pelosi has been involved in a few scandals. And two of her more recent scandals have offered distinct threats to her political career.
The first scandal involves her stance on Congress members trading stocks. Because her husband Paul is a successful venture capitalist, Pelosi’s political opponents have accused her of violating the STOCK Act. This is an act intended to keep politicians from profiting off of their inside financial information.
There is no way of knowing if she has violated the act or not. But when Business Insider asked her point-blank if members of Congress should be allowed to trade stocks themselves, she said they should simply because “We are a free-market economy.” Considering that banning Congress members from stock trading has broad bipartisan support, Pelosi’s ongoing stance has generated ongoing controversy.
Interestingly, Pelosi’s most recent scandal also involved her husband Paul, who was arrested in May 2022!
Nancy Pelosi’s husband was arrested for DUI
Another recent controversy hit closer to home… literally! In May 2022, Paul Pelosi crashed his car near their estate and was arrested for drunk driving. Considering that the Pelosis have a winery on the estate, some thought they might enjoy alcohol a bit too much. Nancy’s refusal to comment on the matter made it seem they did not care about the serious matter of drunk driving and putting the lives of others in danger.
As AP News reports, Paul pled guilty to the misdemeanor DUI charge on Aug. 23. He was sentenced to five days in prison and three years of probation. Many critics have decried this as a slap on the wrist compared to how an average person would be punished for a dangerous DUI crash, and this incident further emphasizes how much distance there is between the Pelosis and the average citizen.