Stand up for the facts!

Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.

More Info

I would like to contribute

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks before signing the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump. (AP Images) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks before signing the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump. (AP Images)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks before signing the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump. (AP Images)

Noah Y. Kim
By Noah Y. Kim February 25, 2021

Misleading video takes Pelosi out of context on smear tactics

If Your Time is short

• A video purportedly showing Pelosi describing how to smear political opponents takes her out of context and misleadingly captions her remarks. She was actually criticizing Republicans for engaging in smear tactics, not advocating that Democrats do so. ​

Social media users are claiming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi admitted she used smear tactics to demonize political opponents. According to these users, a YouTube video even shows her saying so in her very own words. 

The video, an excerpt from a June 22, 2017, press briefing, began circulating in 2018 after allegations of sexual assault dominated Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Conservative activist groups, pundits and conspiracy outlets all asserted that it showed Pelosi describing the "smear" tactics that Democrats had used on Kavanaugh. 

More recent posts have claimed that the clip shows Pelosi describing the tactics Democrats used to attack former President Donald Trump.

Here’s why you shouldn’t believe these claims: The video takes Pelosi out of context and misleadingly captions her remarks, making it seem like she’s explaining a political tactic called the "wrap-up smear" that she and other Democrats have deployed in the past.

"It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy," Pelosi says in the clip, which has been viewed on YouTube more than 60,000 times. "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, 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."

The video 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.) 

That’s because the clip cuts out both the question that Pelosi was responding to and the first part of her remarks. A longer version of the video shows that Pelosi was accusing Republicans of using the "wrap-up smear" against Democrats running for office in the 2018 midterms. She was not laying out a blueprint of how to smear Republican opponents.  

Featured Fact-check

Here’s a transcript of the relevant passage from Pelosi’s press briefing, complete with the question she was answering when she made her "wrap-up smear" comment. 

Reporter: "Is it worth it to try and I guess like rehab your image in some of these Republican districts, which would sort of present what you’ve done, or are you guys more focused on just–"

Pelosi: "Well, people say to me all the time, ‘you raise more money than anybody,’ maybe not the Obamas and the Clintons, but I’ve not run for president. ‘Why don’t you spend some of your money on yourself? Go out there and say what you did, this, this and this.’ But you know, it’s just not… Maybe I should, but the fact is, what I want to do is have these members present themselves. 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."

This was not the first time that Pelosi spoke disapprovingly of the "wrap-up smear." In a March 6, 2017, interview on CNN, Pelosi accused Trump of using "wrap-up smears" against former President Barack Obama. 

Our ruling

A YouTube video appears to show Pelosi describing how to demonize political opponents through a tactic called the "wrap-up smear."

The video takes Pelosi of context and misleadingly captions her remarks. The full transcript and clip of her comments shows that she was actually criticizing Republicans for engaging in smear tactics, not advocating that Democrats do so. 

Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Noah Y. Kim

Misleading video takes Pelosi out of context on smear tactics

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up