Specifically, the network has questioned Almaguer’s claim – which he attributed to unnamed sources “familiar with what unfolded inside the Pelosi residence” – that Pelosi, after opening the door to police officers, walked “several feet” back toward his assailant and away from police.
“Why Pelosi didn’t try to flee or tell responding officers he was in distress is unclear,” Almaguer said in his original report, suggesting that Pelosi wasn’t in immediate danger when police arrived.
Almaguer concluded his report by saying, “We still don’t know exactly what unfolded between Mr. Pelosi and the suspect for the 30 minutes they were alone inside that house before police arrived.”
In many ways, Almaguer’s now-withdrawn story conflicted with the timeline presented by prosecutors days earlier.
According to the Nov. 1 charging documents, DePape awakened the 82-year-old Pelosi in his bedroom around 2am. He entered the Pelosis’ house by smashing through a downstairs window with a hammer.
DePape, 42, then demanded to see Speaker Pelosi, indicating he intended to harm her. While attempting to mollify the intruder, Paul Pelosi managed to call 911 on a phone that had been charging in the bathroom adjacent to his bedroom. A dispatcher alerted police.
DePape, still wielding the hammer, led Pelosi downstairs just before police arrived. Pelosi put his right hand on the handle of the hammer to protect himself, according to the charging documents, and opened the front door with his left hand and “nervously but calmly greeted” police. When officers ordered DePape to drop the hammer, he tore it from Pelosi’s grasp and struck him on the head, fracturing his skull, before police rushed into the house and subdued him.
DePape has been charged with attempted murder, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon and other felonies.
It’s not clear if Almaguer, a veteran network correspondent, will face disciplinary action for the flawed story. Almaguer didn’t return requests for comment on Friday.
Mainstream news organisations rarely remove published work from their websites, but NBC decided to pull Almaguer’s story around midday on Friday, after it began to spark comment and speculation on social media. It offered no public explanation at the time, appending an editor’s note on Today’s website reading, “This piece has been removed from publication because it did not meet NBC News reporting standards.”
The removal sparked another round of speculation – this time about why NBC News had removed the story.
Among those who have stoked misinformation and unfounded theories about the Pelosi attack is Twitter owner Elon Musk. After taking over Twitter last week and promising advertisers that it would not become “a free-for-all hellscape,” Musk linked to an article on a fringe website that had asserted, again contrary to all evidence, that Paul Pelosi had been drunk and in a fight with a male prostitute. He later deleted the tweet.
NBC is not the only news outlet whose errors in reporting the story have fueled misinformation. Shortly after the attack, KTVU-TV in San Francisco reported incorrectly that Pelosi’s assailant had been wearing only underwear during the attack. The station corrected its report within a few hours, but the details nevertheless spread in right-wing circles, fueling baseless theories that Pelosi had invited DePape to his house.
Paul Pelosi was released from a hospital on Thursday and has returned to his home in San Francisco.