President Trump’s second nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, was confirmed by the Senate in October 2018 after a contentious hearing process upended by allegations of sexual assault and a supplementary investigation by the FBI.
Kavanaugh’s accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testified under oath that he had sexually assaulted her at a party in 1982, an accusation the nominee vehemently denied. The FBI failed to corroborate Ford’s testimony, paving the way for a close, largely party line vote in favor of confirmation on 6 October.
All along, partisan supporters of Kavanaugh had portrayed Dr. Ford as a dupe, at best, in an alleged conspiracy by Democrats to derail the nomination by smearing his reputation. The day Kavanaugh was confirmed, a video clip began making the rounds in which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) could allegedly be heard revealing the Democratic Party’s template for such attacks, a tactic she called the “wrap-up smear”:
Shocking video from 2017 shows @NancyPelosi describing the Democrat attack plan called the “Wrap-up Smear” 👀👀👀 (the technique used against Justice Brett Kavanaugh)#movingUSforward 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/oVhK4cuoTw
— THE SCOOP (@TheScoop_US) October 8, 2018
A version of the clip also appeared on hyperpartisan websites such as InfoWars.com, where it accompanied an article saying that Pelosi’s description was “eerily similar to what we saw happen to Justice Brett Kavanaugh”:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi revealed a shady tried-and-true Democrat demonization tactic in 2017 called the “wrap-up smear.”
“We call it the ‘wrap-up smear.’ You smear somebody, with falsehoods and all the rest, and then you merchandise it,” Pelosi said at a press conference last year.
“And then you write it, and then they’ll say ‘See? It’s reported in the press that this, this, this and this,’ so they have that validation that the press reported the smear, and then it’s called the ‘wrap-up smear.’ Now I’m going to merchandise the press’s report on the smear that we made.”
Sounds eerily similar to what we saw happen to Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process.
The clips are authentic in the respect that they were extracted from an actual C-SPAN video of Pelosi’s weekly press briefing on 22 June 2017, but seriously misleading in the respect that they were trimmed in such a way as to omit their original context.
As a longer clip and transcript clearly show, Pelosi was calling out Republicans for conducting wrap-up smear campaigns, not touting the phenomenon as a go-to strategy for Democrats:
PELOSI: Because, basically, at the end of the day that’s what people are interested in — their representative and what their representative is going to do for their district. Republicans are afraid of that contrast in a race. Because they’re going to go there to be involved in trickle-down economics, shutting down hospitals, and the rest of it. So they don’t want them to see that contrast, so they focus on something else. And it’s a diversionary tactic. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You demonize, and then you — we call it the wrap-up smear. You want to talk about politics? It’s called the wrap-up smear. You smear somebody with falsehoods and all the rest, and then you merchandise it, and then you write it, and they’ll say “See, it’s reported in the press that this, this, and this,” so they have that validation that the press reported the smear, and then it’s called a wrap-up smear. “Now I’m going to merchandise the press’s report on the smear that we made.” It’s a tactic, and it’s self-evident.
In fact, this wasn’t the first time Pelosi brought up the term “wrap-up smear” specifically to describe Republican political tactics. In this 6 March 2017 exchange between Pelosi and CNN news anchor Jake Tapper, she claimed President Trump used such a smear tactic against former president Barack Obama:
TAPPER: So, let’s start with President Trump’s allegation, so far evidence-free, that President Obama sought to have him wiretapped during the campaign. You’re part of the Gang of Eight. That’s a group of House and Senate leaders, both the leadership and the leadership of the Intelligence Committees, that would be privy, one suspects, to such information. Do you have any idea what he’s talking about?
PELOSI: Well, the president, you know, is the deflector in chief, anything to change the subject from where the heat is. And, as one who has been engaged in intelligence, a member of the Gang of Eight, for a long time, I can tell that it’s just ridiculous for the president, President Trump, to say that President Obama would ever order any wiretap of an American citizen, any president. That’s just not — we don’t do that.
And, so, this is — it’s called a wrap-up smear. You make up something. Then you have the press write about it. And then you say, everybody is writing about this charge.
It’s a tool of an authoritarian, to just have you always be talking about what you want them to be talking about. Rather than Russia, we’re talking about, did President Obama do thus and so?
We were unable to find any instances of Pelosi’s stating or advocating that Democrats use such a tactic.
Bradner, Eric. “Pelosi: Trump’s Obama Claim an ‘Authoritarian’ Tactic.”
CNN. 6 March 2017.
Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. “Kavanaugh Is Sworn in After Close Confirmation Vote in Senate.”
The New York Times. 6 October 2018.
C-SPAN. “House Minority Leader Weekly Briefing.”
22 June 2017.
InfoWars. “Flashback: Pelosi Predicted ‘Wrap-Up Smear’ Tactic on Kavanaugh in 2017.”
7 October 2018.