Alexandra Pelosi discusses new documentary, 'Pelosi in the House'

The film about the former speaker is now streaming on HBO.

ByABC News
December 16, 2022, 2:44 PM

A new film, "Pelosi in the House," details the daily life of Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, through the eyes of her daughter, filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi.

Alexandra Pelosi spoke with ABC News' Linsey Davis about her dad's health after an in-home attack, witnessing the Jan. 6 riots and how she started this project about her mother.

Ultimately, she said, the film is meant to be a "civics lesson," showing what the Speaker of the House does all day, and how Congress actually works.

PRIME: Joining us now is filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi. Thank you so much for being here.

PELOSI: Thank you for having me.

PRIME: You can just tell it's just so riveting, even just in that little snippet right there. First, before we get to the movie, let me just ask, how is your dad doing?

PELOSI: Well, every day is, you know, it's up and down. It's long term. You know, it's traumatic brain injury. Yesterday he went to the portrait unveiling for my mother.

That was a great victory for the family, you know, that he gets out sometimes. But it's long term. It's going to take a long time for him to get better. But, you know, it's nice to see him when there are big events that he gets to participate in and we're happy that he gets to get out.

PRIME: When did you decide this is the moment to do this project?

PELOSI: Four and a half years ago, I walked up to my editor in the cafeteria. It was before the 2018 election, before she became speaker the second time.

I said to him, "It's about time you get into my library. You should go look, because I have a lot of good footage over the years, and if she loses this election, then she'll be put out to pasture. Then we could air a film." That was always the thought going into it.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi delivers remarks from the House Chambers of the Capitol Building, Nov. 17, 2022.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

PRIME: But things certainly got interesting on January 6. You happen to be in the Capitol that day. We see you when you're looking outside and saying, "Oh, look at all those protesters." When did you know this is no ordinary protest?

PELOSI: Well, my son called it. You see a little boy, a teenage boy, looking out the window. That was my son. He kept saying, "what if they storm the Capitol?" Nobody was paying attention because everyone just assumed they were going to behave.

I think at the moment that the Capitol Police came in, they said "we're evacuating," was when we knew I had to film, because when they took Nancy Pelosi out of the actual Congress, they were taking her out, evacuating the building.

I figured it was my responsibility to document what was happening, all the phone calls that she was making and everything that was going on. Because what ended up happening was she worked with the leaders of the House and the Senate and with the vice president to coordinate bringing the entire Congress to an Army base to finish the job or go back to the Capitol -- which were they going to do?

So there was a real historic event unfolding, and so that's why I was filming the whole time.

PRIME: And in that moment, did you realize how historic it would likely be?

PELOSI: Well, my mother really treats the Capitol like it's sacred ground. So I knew when we had to be evacuated that something was very serious. Her father was in Congress. She'd been in Congress for 35 years, so she treats the Capitol like the Vatican.

As we saw what was going on on live television, we knew how bad it was getting. The question was, you know, were they going to be able to fulfill the obligation that, you know, was written into the Constitution of certifying the election results that night?

That was the big question. That was the history that was being made that day, of how they were going to resolve the problem. And luckily, they all worked together and made it happen.

PRIME: And were you fearful because, you know, not just being there in that intense situation at the moment, but also you have your back to the action because you're focused on your mom?

PELOSI: The Capitol Police told us after that, that we were 2 minutes away from our own execution and that the timestamp on my iPhone versus, you know, the security camera in the Capitol. We didn't know how close we came.

PRIME: I want to go to a particular point in the documentary where you talk [to her] about "how you're impossible to crack." You're talking to your mom and just want to look at this personal moment that you have with her. What were you able to learn about your mom that maybe you didn't know before starting this?

PELOSI: I think a lot of people think that politicians are like cartoon characters or like they're caricatures, that they just behave one way and, you know, when they're out there, that's what she is. It's in our DNA.

She doesn't go home and, you know, just unplug and start going off message. She's always on message. It's like the DNA, you know, all the Democratic Party talking points are just in her DNA. Does that make sense?

PRIME: It totally does. What might surprise us about your mom?

PELOSI: She's very funny, don't you think?

PRIME: Oh, I think she's funny. I think that's not a surprise. I think we see that.

PELOSI: I didn't make this so that people could get to know Nancy Pelosi, because I know half the country hates her.

So I'm not trying to change anyone's opinions. I'm trying to give a civics lesson about what the speaker is, what she does all day, how you pass a bill because she counts votes and she shows you how a bill becomes a law.

I'm hoping that this will serve as sort of an education of how Congress works.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stands with her husband Paul as a portrait of her is unveiled at Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, U.S., Dec. 14, 2022.
Mary F. Calvert/Reuters

PRIME: What do you think the lasting impact of your mom will be as far as women in politics?

PELOSI: Well, I hope that many women will follow in her footsteps, although after what happened to my father, I'm not sure I would encourage any woman I know to go into politics.

You know, my mother thinks public service is a noble calling, she says, you know, people serving in Congress. She said yesterday at a portrait unveiling that, "every one of you here is a gift." Even the Republicans, even Kevin McCarthy sitting there, "you are a gift to democracy."

I don't feel that way about public life. I just feel like it's been so destroyed with the toxic media environment.

I have teenage kids and they have iPhones and they get these news alerts about like "this guy wanted to hang Nancy Pelosi from a lamppost."

We're so used to this kind of conversation that I think it's really hard to make peace with. She thinks it's public service, and she thinks it's very noble. And we think of it as, you know, just really, really scary, toxic, you know, threatening.

The day she stepped down was the best day of my life. I felt like I had just lost 100 pounds. It was just like I felt liberated, because everything you say can and will be weaponized, you know? So even as the daughter, if you say something, "Oh, Pelosi's daughter says this."

You aren't your own person, even at the age of 52, you have to be so careful with every word that comes out of your mouth, because everything you say can and will be used against the person in office. So it's just it's just the game they're playing these days.

PRIME: So you don't use your words, you just use your videos to tell the story. Alexandra Pelosi, our thanks so much for you coming on.

And we want our viewers to know that "Pelosi in the House," I love the name, by the way, "Pelosi in the House" is now available to stream on HBO Max.