(CNN) -- Prominent figures on social media, including some of the loudest voices on the political right, are pushing a salacious and false conspiracy theory about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, in an apparent attempt to shift the narrative about the assault.The claim that big names like Elon Musk, Donald Trump, Jr., and Dinesh D'Souza have promoted to millions of their followers: Paul Pelosi and the man who attacked him were gay lovers who had gotten into a fight.The spurious theory traces back to an incorrect early news report and a handful of pieces of evidence that its proponents have spun wildly out of context.
It runs contrary to the explanation police and federal law enforcement have outlined -- that the suspect in the attack, David DePape, broke into Pelosi's house and attacked him."There is absolutely no evidence that Mr.
Pelosi knew this man," San Francisco Police Chief William Scott told CNN in an interview. "As a matter of fact, the evidence indicates the exact opposite."But the explosion of social media posts discussing the theory shows how quickly conspiracies can spread, and how eagerly some political actors use falsehoods to push their agendas -- even as violent threats against lawmakers have multiplied in recent years.A conspiracy linked to Nancy Pelosi, who has long been a lightning rod for conservatives and played a starring role in GOP attack ads, was an especially appealing target for right-wing conspiracists, according to Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an American University professor who studies polarization and extremism."We have a population that is unable to discern what is true and what's not, and this spreading of misinformation from credible sources undermines that," Miller-Idriss.