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Then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks at the 2018 California Democrats State Convention Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in San Diego. (Associated Press) Then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks at the 2018 California Democrats State Convention Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in San Diego. (Associated Press)

Then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks at the 2018 California Democrats State Convention Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in San Diego. (Associated Press)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman August 17, 2018

No, Nancy Pelosi didn't tell Democratic candidates to lie

A tea party website took an interview on MSNBC with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and leapt to a conclusion about the message she was sending to midterm candidates.

"Pelosi sinks to new low, tells Dems: if you have to lie to voters to win, do it," said an Aug. 15 headline on teaparty.org, which attributed the story to the Conservative Tribune.

This story was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The story quotes part of Pelosi’s interview on AM Joy on MSNBC Aug. 12. Much of the interview focused on the midterms and the Democrats’ message to voters. The interviewer, Jonathan Capehart, also asked Pelosi if she planned to give up the speakership if the Democrats take back the House. (NBC reported Aug. 10 that 50 Democrats running for the House say they won't support the California lawmaker for speaker. The New York Times then found 60 Democratic House candidates have said that they prefer new leadership if the party wins back the House in November.)

The Conservative Tribune story combined actual quotes from Pelosi with its own extrapolation of what she "essentially" meant.

Here’s what Pelosi actually told MSNBC:

"Well first of all, let me just say this, and I know NBC has been on a jag of this. This is one of their priorities to undermine my prospect as speaker. But putting that aside, I have not asked one person for a vote.

"I haven’t asked a candidate or an incumbent for a vote. What’s important, and I know better than anybody how important it is for us to win this election because I see up close and personal what the Republicans and this president are doing.

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"I do not think our opponents should select the leaders of our party. The Republicans are spending millions -- tens of millions of dollars against me because they’re afraid of me, because I outraise them in the political arena, because I outsmart them at the negotiating table and because I’m a woman who’s going to be a seat at that table.

"And that, for me, is very important. If Hillary Clinton had won and had sat at the head of that table, it’d be different. But I’m not yielding - I’m not yielding that. Now I do believe that none of us is indispensable, but I think I’m the best person for the job and I won’t let the Republican ads, which are just flooding these districts."

"And I say to the candidates ‘do whatever you have to do, just win, baby.’ I know one in five children in America lives in poverty. We must win this. When the caucus decides, it will decide whose name they will send to the floor - only then, after the election, will I ask people for their support."

So Pelosi did say that candidates should "do whatever you have to do" when asked to respond to Democratic candidates saying she should hand over the gavel, but she didn’t tell them to lie to their constituents.  

Later in the interview, Pelosi shared some other advice she gives to candidates: "don’t even mention Donald Trump. It’s not about him, he’s self evident. It’s about your relationship to the constituents. Their financial security, which is related to health care, cost of prescription drugs, cost of premiums, Medicare, Medicaid, pre-existing condition as a benefit. ..."

Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill said he had nothing to add. We sent an email to the teaparty.org website and a Facebook message to the Conservative Tribune and we did not get a response by deadline.

Our ruling

A headline said, "Pelosi sinks to new low, tells Dems: if you have to lie to voters to win, do it." Pelosi said in an interview on MSNBC that she says to "candidates do whatever you have to do, just win, baby" but we found no evidence she told them to lie.

Pelosi’s additional advice to candidates was to not make the election about Trump but make it about voters’ financial security and health care.

We rate this headline False.

Our Sources

Teaparty.org, "Pelosi sinks to new low, tells Dems: if you have to lie to voters to win, do it," Aug. 15, 2018

Conservative Tribune, "Pelosi sinks to new low, tells Dems: if you have to lie to voters to win, do it," Aug. 14, 2018

MSNBC, "AM Joy Interview with Rep. Nancy Pelosi," transcript and video and part 2 of video, Aug 12, 2018

NBC, "Over 50 Democratic candidates say they would oppose Pelosi as House speaker," Aug. 10, 2018

New York Times, "Pelosi, Under Threat in Her Own Party, Says She Is Building Bridge to New Leaders," Aug. 16, 2018

New York Times, "Democrats Calling for New Leadership," Aug. 16, 2018

Interview, Drew Hammill, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi spokesman, Aug. 16, 2018

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No, Nancy Pelosi didn't tell Democratic candidates to lie

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