In the aftermath of the attack on Paul Pelosi, amid rising concern over rightwing figures stoking violence against political opponents, Donald Trump Jr posted online a crude meme featuring a hammer, the weapon used to attack the husband of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, on Friday.
“OMG,” the former president’s son wrote next to the picture, which also had the caption “Got my Paul Pelosi Halloween costume ready”.
The internet backlash was swift but Trump Jr, a full-time provocateur and surrogate for his father, doubled down equally swiftly – posting another, this time clearly homophobic, meme which appears to reference a baseless conspiracy theory about the assault.
Paul Pelosi, 82, was attacked in his home in San Francisco by a man wielding a hammer who reportedly said “Where is Nancy?” after gaining entry. Pelosi was hospitalised with serious injuries but is expected to fully recover.
Police named the suspect as David DePape, 42. News outlets have reported that he posted delusional, conspiracy-laced writings online before the attack, some echoing QAnon and election denial conspiracies familiar in Trumpist circles.
Trump Jr, whose Instagram biography includes the phrase “Meme Wars General”, has welcomed the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk, the Tesla owner and sometime world’s richest man.
Musk has said he will loosen restrictions on content posted to Twitter, which banned Donald Trump after the January 6 insurrection.
On Sunday, Musk drew fire for also posting a reference to the conspiracy theory about the Paul Pelosi attack. Hours later, without explanation, he deleted it.
The story Musk pointed to was from the Santa Monica Observer, which Mediabiasfactcheck.com calls “an imposter website that is designed to look like an authentic local news source” but “favors the Republican party”.
Roger Stone and Dinesh D’Souza were among other pro-Trump figures to post conspiracy theories and misinformation about the Pelosi attack.
Carl Cameron, a former Fox News correspondent, told the Washington Post the aim was to create “a dystopia wherein lying and physical violence become part of our politics”.