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Who is Gayle Rubin, the U-M professor targeted by Paul Pelosi’s attacker?

university of michigan campus
(iStock photo by peterspiro)
  • David DePape testified during his trial that his attack on Paul Pelosi targeted U-M professor Gayle Rubin
  • DePape accused Rubin, a women’s studies professor at U-M, of creating “pedo factories” 
  • A jury found DePape guilty in the attack against Pelosi Thursday afternoon

A University of Michigan professor was a main target of David DePape, the man found guilty Thursday of attacking Paul Pelosi, the husband of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Testifying during his trial on federal charges of attempting to kidnap a federal officer or employee, and assaulting the immediate family member of a federal official, DePape said he hoped to use Pelosi in an effort to get to Gayle Rubin, an associate professor of anthropology and women’s studies at the university.


She was among a list of state and federal representatives and high-profile individuals on DePape’s target list. 


Others on the list were President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, actor Tom Hanks, former Attorney General Bill Barr, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Rubin was referred to as “target 1” in court documents but has since been identified by defense lawyers and prosecutors.   

DePape testified that he searched for Rubin’s address but knew her house would be difficult to get into. He planned to use Nancy Pelosi to get to Rubin. 

"I figured Target 1 would know Nancy and be attracted to her celebrity,” he testified, according to CBS News. 

DePape accused Rubin of being a “pedo activist” who was working to turn schools into “pedo factories.” 

Rubin, who could not be reached for comment, is widely known in academia for her feminist theories and advocacy. She became a prominent feminist leader in the early 1970s when the feminist movement resurged in the U.S. In 1971, while earning a doctorate in anthropology from U-M, she formed a group called Radicalesbians.

Gayle Rubin headshot
UM professor Gayle Rubin subject of a planned attack by David DePape, who was found guilty of the 2022 attack against Paul Pelosi. (Courtesy photo)

Rubin wrote an article called “The Traffic in Women”' about sex and gender. She has written several other controversial pieces including one about gay leathermen in San Francisco titled “Valley of the Kings: Leathermen in San Francisco.” 

She currently teaches courses on sexological theory at the university.

Rubin has been targeted by right-wing groups for her writings. 

DePape broke into Pelosi’s San Francisco home last year with plans to kidnap then-Speaker Pelosi, who was in Washington at the time. Prosecutors said he had rope and zip ties, CBS News reported.  

DePape said he struck Paul Pelosi in the head when officers arrived, fearful that his bigger plan was ruined.  


He testified that the attack against Paul Pelosi was part of an effort to stop corruption in the country. He was motivated, in part, he said, by YouTube videos and podcasts he listened to from conservative media outlets.

In addition to the federal charges, the state of California charged DePape with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, residential burglary and threats to a public official, all of which could land DePape in prison for 13 years to life. 

DePape pleaded not guilty to both the federal and state charges. A trial date for his state charges will be determined at hearing on Nov. 29.

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