Police outside the San Francisco home of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose husband, Paul, was attacked by an intruder on Oct. 28 (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
As you might expect, the first official reports about the Oct. 28 attack on Paul Pelosi in San Francisco were light on details.
But conspiracy theorists abhor a vacuum almost as much as Republicans abhor House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As her 82-year-old husband fought for his life, and police tried to figure out what had happened, the crazies went to work.
One of the most odiferous takes wafted out of a seaside Southern California town known for its liberal politics and picturesque pier. How disappointing.
The Santa Monica Observer, a tiny weekly, posted a malicious piece that was far afield of the truth.
The Observer’s Oct. 29 headline: “The Awful Truth, Paul Pelosi was drunk again, and in a dispute with a male prostitute early Friday morning.”
(About that “drunk again” claim: In August, Pelosi pleaded guilty to driving under the influence after causing an accident in Napa County in May. He was sentenced to five days in jail and three years’ probation, plus fines.)
The Observer story was contradicted two days later by prosecutors, who stated in their charging document that Pelosi was awakened by a man who smashed glass with a hammer to get into the house and claimed he wanted to maim the house speaker.
The Observer story was bylined Stan Greene, though my colleague, librarian Jennifer Arcand, was unable to find a trace of him.
In the place where a photo of Greene would normally run next to his stories, there is a gray square captioned “Image removed for reasons of personal security.” In 2016, a photo did run next to a false Observer story predicting President Obama would deschedule marijuana, but, as veteran cannabis journalist Tom Angell tweeted at the time, it was the headshot of UCLA law professor Julian Eule, who died in 1997.
It’s possible, as you’ll see, that Greene is a pseudonym for the Observer’s publisher, a longtime Santa Monica local named David Ganezer.
I’ve never run into Ganezer in journalism circles, but he’s made plenty of appearances in The Times over the years. Turns out, he is a former lawyer and failed Santa Monica City Council candidate who resigned from the state bar in 2001. His bio on the California bar website says disciplinary charges were pending against him when he resigned.
In 1998, Ganezer tried to revive the defunct Santa Monica Outlook newspaper, then founded the Observer instead.
He has been either the plaintiff or defendant in about 40 civil cases, court records show. And he’s also filed for bankruptcy a couple of times, including as recently as June, according to public records.
Former Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole, who now runs the Congress for New Urbanism, said he regularly dealt with Ganezer during his five-year tenure.
“Once a week, he put out this rag that was everywhere in Santa Monica,” Cole told me. “His coverage of City Hall was like the jokes you hear — ‘I heard from the brother of a friend of mine’s uncle’s girlfriend.’ Half true, half made up, half wrong.”
In 2016, the Observer reported that Hillary Clinton was dead after she collapsed during a 9/11 commemoration ceremony in New York. “What if Hillary Clinton can no longer run for President? That would cause rioting, and interfere with the New World Order. Roll out the body double!” said the Observer. Ganezer claimed in an email to readers that the story was satire.
“I could never tell if he was having fun or what,” said Cole.
We may never know. I reached out to Ganezer multiple times by text, phone and email with specific questions, but he did not respond.
He did, however, respond to Zoey Tur, 62, the helicopter news reporter famous for filming the attack on trucker Reginald Denny in 1992 at the start of the Rodney King riots and OJ Simpson’s slo-mo getaway attempt in a white Bronco in 1994. Tur has known Ganezer since they were in kindergarten together at Westwood Elementary School and hired him in 1991 to help her sue a company that used her news videos without permission. She was outraged by the fake Pelosi story.
“Is Stan Greene you?” Tur demanded of Ganezer in a text she shared with me. “Did you write the Pelosi story? Why?”
Ganezer responded, “My story makes more sense than the San Francisco Police Department story.” (This is not reporting. It is fantasizing.)
“You, under your nom de plume Stan Greene, trashed the reputation of an 82-year-old ADW [assault with a deadly weapon] victim,” replied Tur. Ganezer responded with an emoji of a bald man biting his nails, feigning fear.
“He thinks it’s funny and that’s really the problem with him,” said Tur. “He doesn’t understand the business he’s in.”
The Observer story might never have escaped the bowels of the internet if not for the fact that it was boosted by the world’s richest man who recently bought one of the world’s most influential social media platforms.
“There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” Elon Musk tweeted to his 100 million-plus followers, linking to the ridiculous Observer story. His tweet came just days after he declared to advertisers that he would not allow Twitter to become “a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences.”
The blowback was swift and intense. Musk deleted the tweet.
Over the past week, the Observer story has been changed and updated multiple times to reflect the emerging facts, although Ganezer doesn’t quite accept his role in perpetuating damaging falsehoods.
“This story has always been labeled opinion,” reads one of the updates. Not that it apparently matters to Ganezer, but even opinion writers can’t make up their own facts.
“Authorities have changed their story,” the update says, “making it more difficult to understand this strange and heinous crime.”
I do give credit to Ganezer for one thing: His rag’s fib led to Musk revealing that Twitter is well on its way to becoming the very hellscape Musk pretended to disavow.
Points for that, I guess.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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