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Hayat Norimine
By Hayat Norimine October 18, 2020

No, Nancy Pelosi was not photographed with Charles Manson ‘family’

If Your Time is short

• A meme circulating on Facebook misidentifies a prominent member of the Charles Manson Family as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

• The woman circled in the meme is Mary Brunner, Manson’s first recruit and mother of his child.

• Pelosi lived in San Francisco with five children at the time the photo was taken.

A black-and-white photo of nine members of the Charles Manson "family," a Los Angeles cult responsible for several grisly murders, has been making rounds on social media. Circled in red is a woman in the back in a striped tank top, staring into the camera.

Facebook users are convinced that woman is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It’s not. 

"Manson’s gang Nancy Pelosi circled," reads a recent post by Don Mentzer. 

This post 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 woman circled in the photo is Mary Brunner, a prominent member of the Manson Family and Manson’s first recruit. 

Brunner was first identified to PolitiFact by Joan Renner, a historian and expert on Los Angeles crimes. Renner recognized Brunner right away. 

"She has a very distinctive look," Renner said. "You can take that to the bank." 

Renner didn’t know the origins of the photo, but said the setting looked like the Spahn Ranch, where members of the Manson Family stayed in the early 1970s after Manson was arrested in August 1969. 

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So we kept asking around. 

Tom O’Neill, who wrote a book about the Manson Family, also confirmed Brunner’s identity. He connected PolitiFact with Bo Emerson, who collects documents and photos from the Manson case. He recognized the photo as one published in the August 1970 article of LIFE Magazine. 

The photo was taken by Michael Haering, a Los Angeles photojournalist. Other photos of Brunner in the same outfit credited to Haering can be found online. 

In 1968, Pelosi was living in New York City and had four children, Pelosi’s spokesperson Drew Hamill pointed out. She and her husband moved to San Francisco — about 370 miles away from the Spahn Ranch — in 1969, when they had their fifth child. 

Renner said Manson and his cult despised politicians and would never have affiliated himself with a member of a prominent political family.

"Pelosi would’ve been on their ‘political piggies’ list," Renner said, referring to a term Manson often used to justify his killings. "There’s no way in the world that she would’ve been anything else other than their possible victim." 

Our ruling

The Facebook post claimed that Pelosi was photographed with the Manson Family in the late 1960s. 

The meme circled a woman in the middle back. She has been identified as Mary Brunner, a prominent member of the Manson Family. The photo was taken in 1970.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

Facebook post, Oct. 13, 2020

Notable Biographies, "Nancy Pelosi Biography," accessed Oct. 17, 2020, "How Spahn Ranch Became a Headquarters for Manson Family Cult," accessed Oct. 17, 2020

Los Angeles Public Library, "Helter Skelter in the Summer of 1969," accessed Oct. 17, 2020

LeadStores, "Fake News: Nancy Pelosi Was NOT in the Manson Family Along with Angela Landsbury’s Daughter," accessed Oct. 17, 2020, "Mary Brunner, a Librarian from Wisconsin, Was Charles Manson’s First Recruit," accessed Oct. 17, 2020

Email, Nancy Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hamill, Oct. 16, 2020

Email, author Tom O’Neill, Oct. 16, 2020

Email, Bo Emerson, Oct. 17, 2020, "Just Waiting for Charlie," accessed Oct. 17, 2020

Associated Press, "AP Was There: Gruesome cult killings found at actress’s home," accessed Oct. 17, 2020, "Manson & Family," accessed Oct. 17, 2020, "About the Author," accessed Oct. 17, 2020

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No, Nancy Pelosi was not photographed with Charles Manson ‘family’

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