Speaker Nancy Pelosi had just urged Brown University graduates to remain robust and call on their “better angels“On Memorial Day weekend, when she was forced to turn her attention to a less uplifting situation: her husband’s arrest in California.
The details of the incident were not very flattering.
The night before, May 28, Paul Pelosi, 82, had been in Oakville, among the country’s most exclusive enclaves, leaving a small dinner on the hedge-covered property of Alexander Mehran, a longtime friend and Democratic donor.
Sir. Pelosi got behind the wheel of his black 2021 Porsche 911 to drive the six miles to Pelosis’ country house in the Napa Valley. It was around 10pm, according to a police report and eyewitnesses.
He walked a little more than half a mile and tried to cross State Route 29 and turn left. But a Jeep came down the highway and hit Mr. Pelosi’s car as he made the turn.
Police who responded arrested him on suspicion of drink driving and suspicion of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. He is due in court again in August. 3. If a criminal charge is brought, he will be brought before the court. (The driver of the jeep was not arrested.)
It was perhaps not only alcohol that hindered Mr. Pelosi is running. Two people who have spoken to Pelosis since the crash said Mr. Pelosi had undergone cataract surgery in the days before dinner. (Doctors disagree on when it is acceptable to drive, with estimates ranging from 24 hours to two weeks.)
The speaker went into crisis mode. On Sunday afternoon, Larry Kamer, a crisis manager who has a home in Napa and has worked for high-profile clients, including Harvard University and Nike, was detained. The family also consulted with John Keker, one of San Francisco’s most prominent defense attorneys, and Lee Houskeeper, a longtime PR chief for San Francisco’s political types, including former Mayor Willie Brown.
The newly assembled team had to deal with a couple of unwelcome certainties: The accident would again focus attention on Mr. Pelos’ troubled driving record, including a crash when he was a teenager, left his brother dead. It would also send journalists – from TMZ to Napa Valley Register – Scramble after every detail.
And that would put the spotlight on Pelosis’ life in California, where the couple lives in two homes, including one 16.55 acres fenced property and mingle with other wealthy residents, at a time when economic difficulties are burdening many people with inferior means.
In the end, a representative of Ms. Pelosi issued a third statement in which he stressed Ms. Pelosis distance from the accident.
“The speaker will not comment on this private matter which took place while she was on the East Coast,” it read.
‘Everyone in San Francisco now has a Napa place’
The Pelosis have had a weekend home in the Napa Valley since 1990, spending $ 2.35 million on their property, which came with a villa in Palladian styleguesthouse and pool.
“It’s not a palace,” Brown said. “If you go up there, you will notice that some people have places with caves for the wine and all that sort of thing. That’s not what they have. They have a place you can actually live without servants. You would not bring the three tenors to sing. “But Pelosis has a vineyard from which they sell grapes.
“Everyone in San Francisco now has a Napa location,” Brown continued. “Everyone who can afford it.”
Neighbors are aware of Ms. Pelosi’s regular presence, in part due to the safety details that appear when she’s in Napa and can cause traffic delays. Ms. Pelosi and her husband also host a regular summer gathering attended by many of the Democratic Party’s biggest names.
Ms. Pelosi, also 82, usually goes to the Memorial Day weekend dinner, which her husband attended just before his arrest, in Oakville’s home by Mr. Mehran, a major commercial real estate developer. In an interview, Mr Mehran said he had been friends with Pelosis for more than 50 years. Since the 2020 election cycle, he has given more than $ 1 million to Democratic politicians and groups, according to Data from the Federal Electoral Commission.
Pelosis is taken to Napa, an often isolated world where family, political and social circles overlap. They have their seats: Ms. Pelosi eats at Pizzeria Tra Vignea craft pizza place (where Chelsea Handler was recently seen), and get coffee at The model bakery (where David Beckham is a regular). She can be seen at the Sunday Mass at St. Helena Catholic Church, and sometimes she picks up the banner for her daughters’ and grandchildren’s mania pedis at Blush, the local nail salon.
But even in Napa, Ms. Pelosi, who does not seem to make California relaxed, is often seen in the fitted suits that are her Capitol Hill signature. After all, the Pelosos remain the heart of the San Francisco people, and since 1987 they have been housed in Pacific Heights, perhaps the city’s most exclusive neighborhood, where they own a three-story red brick townhouse.
They regularly perform at the city’s biggest social events – including the San Francisco Symphony’s opening gala – and they have season tickets for San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers. They have been known to turn their shopping excursions at the local Giorgio Armani store (where Mrs Pelosi was seen two weeks ago) into her own sport.
Sir. Pelosi, which has investments in commercial real estate and the technology sector, is still an overwhelming presence in the city’s 6-foot-2, well-dressed community, with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair. But more than a dozen people interviewed for this article said they had never seen evidence that Mr. Pelosi drinks too much. (Ms. Pelosi does not drink at all.) “Paul is a social drinker,” said Mr. Mehran, 71. “That’s the best way to put it.”
Sir. Pelosi, however, has had a history of car accidents over the course of his life. As a 16-year-old, in 1957 he was behind the wheel of a sports car that crashed. His brother David, who was a passenger, killed. (A jury eventually acquitted Mr. Pelosi of charges of manslaughter, according to news reports at the time.)
In the late 1970s. Pelosi became the Northern California chairman of the Democratic Party. On the way to a barbecue for a local politician, a car she was sitting in with Mr. Pelosi and a number of their children turned on their side. No one was injured, and Ms. Pelosi took a trip to meet donors.
The Pelosi camp declined to comment to The New York Times about who was driving.
A political career closely linked to the San Francisco Society
Paul Pelosi’s family roots are in San Francisco, but he met Ms. Pelosi when they were both college students in Washington, DC. The two had a lot in common. They were Liberal Democrats and observant Catholics. And both were Italian-American royals.
When they settled in San Francisco in the late 1960s, Mr. Pelosi’s connections in the city threw them into influential circles. His brother Ronald Pelosi, a rising political star on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was married Barbara Newsomthe aunt of the state’s future governor Gavin Newsom and sister of William Newsom (Gavin’s father), an appeals judge who administered the oil magnate John Paul Getty’s trust.
Nancy and Paul became friends with John Paul Getty’s son Gordon and Gordon’s wife, Ann Getty. The families remain close. Last November, just before we went to Glasgow to speak at COP26 at the UN global climate summit, Ms. Pelosi presided over the wedding of Mr. Getty’s granddaughter Ivy Getty. (Ms. Getty, who wore a 16-foot veil and a mirrored John Galliano to the Maison Margiela dress, is an oil heir; criticism from progressive democrats followed.)
Ms. Pelosi’s advancement in politics began as a fundraiser, but as her children grew, she began to consider running for office. In 1986, Representative Sala Burton, a friend of the Pelosi family, entered the hospital with terminal cancer. A special election to replace her was planned.
Ms. Pelosi decided to run for her seat, but her house was just outside the district. So Mr. Pelosi rented the townhouse in Pacific Heights, and the family moved about 15 blocks to the northeast. Ms. Burton supported Ms. Pelosi days before she died. The rest is history.
Some analysts believe that Ms. Pelosi among the most efficient speakers ever to lead Parliament, and she is a pioneering figure in American politics. She has at times talked about how her faith informs her policies and her desire to expand the social safety net, and she is credited with pushing the law of affordable care through the House.
But it is clear that this spring has been challenging for her.
She has seen while the landmark legislation passed by Parliament, the $ 2 trillion Build Back Better Act, has stalled in the Senate. Additionally, the House Democrats appear to be ready for a shellacking this fall, which would mean that Mrs. Pelosi was to hand over the speaker’s hammer 35 years into his congressional career.
Among the powerful political and social figures who inhabit Pelosis’ world, there was ample sympathy and some protection after what happened during Memorial Day weekend.
A person who witnessed the accident said that both cars were totally damaged and that Mr. Pelosi simply sat in the car, apparently frozen, for a few minutes until the sheriff and members of the fire department arrived moments later.
Sir. Neither Pelosi nor the driver of the jeep were injured.
Some friends felt that Mr. Pelosis’ night in custody in the Napa County Jail after the accident was excessive. Others wondered why their friend had not anticipated the whole ordeal by simply taking a car service home.
And some local residents suggested that in an earlier era in Napa, driving after drinking was met with understanding rather than criminal charges.
“I’m just horrible about what happened because there was a time when if something like that happened, the police would take you home,” the Doyenne Society said. Diane Wilseybetter known as Dede.
Ms. Mr. Wilsey, who is Mr. Pelosi’s shop steward at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, is Republican, but has donated to several of the speaker’s political campaigns and sees the couple socially in California.
“I do not agree with Nancy in everything, but I can not think of anyone better than Nancy or Paul,” she said.
In the meantime according to The San Francisco ChronicleNapa County District Attorney has been busy averting about 1,500 angry calls inspired by right-wing experts, including Donald Trump Jr., and claims without evidence that Mr. Pelosi would not “face any consequences” for the incident. Sir. Pelosi is due to return to court in August. The local authorities emphasize that he does not receive any special treatment.
Steve Eder and Thomas Fuller contributed reporting, and Kitty Bennett contributed research.