Oct 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Obama warns of "demonizing" rhetoric after Pelosi home attack

Former US President Barack Obama reacts to a heckler during a campaign rally for Michigan.

Former President Obama speaks during a campaign rally for Michigan. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

Former President Obama said Saturday that political rhetoric can lead to violence, especially when people start "demonizing" each other.

Why it matters: Obama's comments come one day after Friday's attack against Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi. The attack has shaken up members of Congress, who are worried about more potential threats.

  • Multiple reports suggest the suspect engaged in QAnon conspiracy theories online and rambled about racist remarks.

Speaking in Michigan, Obama said that "if our rhetoric about each other gets that mean, when we don’t just disagree with people, but we start demonizing, making wild, crazy allegations about them, that creates a dangerous climate."

  • "And if elected officials don’t do more to explicitly reject that kind of rhetoric, if they tacitly support it, or encourage their supporters to stand up outside voting places armed with guns and dressed in tactical gear, more people can get hurt. And we’re going to be violating the basic spirit of this country," he added.

Zoom out: Obama said there are politicians today "who work to stir up division, to try to make us angry and afraid of one another for their own advantage."

  • He said social media amplifies the rhetoric "because a lot of times those for-profit platforms find it more profitable to feed you controversy and conflict instead of facts and truth. And sometimes it can turn dangerous."

Obama was interrupted by a heckler in the crowd during the speech.

  • The former president told the heckler that the two could speak without needing to shut each other down.

Go deeper: "Somebody is going to die"

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