- Topping off a night of partisan theatrics, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ripped President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address following the conclusion of his speech.
- Pelosi’s move came after Trump broke years of tradition by not shaking the speaker’s hand before he began.
- During Trump’s speech, the father of a Parkland shooting victim shouted at Trump after the president said he would protect the Second Amendment. That man was then escorted from the room.
- Trump also awarded conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the SOTU. While not met with immediate controversy, the award sparked both criticism and applause on social media.
Pelosi Rips Trump’s Speech
Though Tuesday’s State of the Union was undoubtedly President Trump’s biggest night of the year to address American audiences, partisan theatrics were arguably the biggest headline by the end of the night.
From beginning to end, the address was capped with tense moments between Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, culminating in Pelosi’s decision to rip Trump’s speech in two after he finished speaking.
The tension began when Trump failed to shake Pelosi’s hand upon approaching the stage. After Trump handed her his speech, Pelosi then reached out her hand to shake his, however, she did so as Trump was in the process of turning away to face the podium.
Trump also did not shake Vice President Mike Pence’s hand. As per tradition, the vice president and speaker both sit directly behind the president during his address.
The move by both has been interpreted a variety of ways on social media, with some saying that Trump deliberately ignored Pelosi because she launched the impeachment trial that began in the House of Representatives. Others noted how quickly Trump turned away, suggesting that he just didn’t see her hand.
It’s very likely Trump didn’t even see Nancy’s hand.— @JoMichigan (@JoMichigan1) February 5, 2020
After reviewing it over, it appears that Trump turned and didn’t see her hand extended.— Dane Zeiner (@ZeinerDaine) February 5, 2020
While it is entirely possible Trump simply missed Pelosi’s gesture, his decision to not shake her hand breaks long-standing tradition. Last year, he shook both Pelosi and Pence’s hands. In 2018, he shook the hand of then-speaker Paul Ryan. Upon simple review of SOTU addresses from former presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Bush Sr., all shook their respective speakers’ hands.
The tension between the two then escalated when Pelosi broke protocol in addressing Trump as he entered the room.
“Members of Congress, the President of the United States,” she said.
Notably, that line omits a key part of the phrase the speaker is supposed to say: “Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United States.”
Following Trump’s address, reporters asked Pelosi why she decided to destroy Trump’s speech.
“Because it was the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative,” she responded.
Also following the speech, many on social media felt divided by the move. By Wednesday morning, a large portion of the top trends concerned the moment, with people using hashtags like #PettyPelosi, #PelosiMeltdown, #NancytheRipper, and #NancyIsABadass.
On the president’s personal Twitter page, he’s retweeted nearly two dozen people, all of whom posted tweets critical of Pelosi. Likewise, Trump retweeted a message from the official White House Twitter that condemned Pelosi’s action.
“Speaker Pelosi just ripped up: One of our last surviving Tuskegee Airmen. The survival of a child born at 21 weeks. The mourning families of Rocky Jones and Kayla Mueller. A service member’s reunion with his family. That’s her legacy,” the tweet reads.
On the other side of the debate, Freshman representative Rashida Tlaib gave her support for such a move.
“I would have shredded it,” she said on Twitter.
Parkland Dad’s Outburst
Moments during Trump’s address were also met with controversy. Soon after finishing a statement about how he will protect the Second Amendment, Trump was met with an outburst from a person in the crowd.
That man turned out to be Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed during the Parkland school shooting in 2018. Guttenberg had been invited to the address by Pelosi, and since his daughter’s death, he has become an active advocate for gun control.
Following his outburst, Guttenberg was escorted from the House chamber by a plain-clothed police officer. During this time, Trump did not acknowledge Guttenberg and continued with his speech.
Later Tuesday night, Guttenberg issued an apology via Twitter, where he said he was overcome with emotion in the moment.
“Tonight was a rough night,” he said. “I disrupted the State Of The Union and was detained because I let my emotions get the best of me. I simply want to be able to deal with the reality of gun violence and not have to listen to the lies about the 2A as happened tonight.”
“That said, I should not have yelled out,” he added. “I am thankful for the overwhelming support that I am receiving. However, I do owe my family and friends an apology. I have tried to conduct myself with dignity throughout this process and I will do better as I pursue gun safety.”
Guttenberg then received further support from people like California Governor Gavin Newsom and Parkland survivor David Hogg. Also on Twitter, #ImWithFred trended Tuesday night.
Limbaugh Awarded Medal of Freedom
In a move that wasn’t met with immediate controversy in the House chamber, Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, a conservative radio talk show host who’s been vocal about his support for Trump.
The award comes just a day after Limbaugh announced that he had been diagnosed with an advanced stage of lung cancer,
“Almost every American family knows the pain when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness,” Trump said of Limbaugh during his address. “Here tonight is a special man, someone beloved by millions of Americans who just received a Stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis. This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet. Rush Limbaugh, thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country.”
First Lady Melania Trump bestowed that medal upon a very ecstatic Limbaugh; however, others such as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ihan Omar were critical of the award.
“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an extraordinarily sacred award,” Osacio-Cortez said. “We’re talking about putting someone on the same level as Rosa Parks, you know, for example in terms of their contributions to American progress. Rush Limbaugh is a virulent racist.”
Campaign Season Gets Rolling This Month With Primaries in 13 States
Several of the contests taking place this month will serve as important tests for Trump-backed candidates and how much power the former president still has over the GOP.
May Primaries Start With Key Race in Ohio
The 2022 midterm season is officially heating up this month with 13 states heading to the polls.
Voters in Indiana and Ohio will kick off the busy month on Tuesday with several highly anticipated races, including one closely watched contest for the seat being vacated by long-time Senator Rob Portman (R-Oh.)
The fight for Portman’s seat has been a heated one: candidates have spent tens of millions of dollars, held numerous debates and forums, and at one point, two of them even got into a physical confrontation.
The main reason there are so many eyes on this race is because it will prove to be a key test for former President Donald Trump and the influence he has over the party. While Portman has generally been moderate and, at times, more readily critical of Trump than many others in his party, the Republican primary campaign has basically been a fight to see who is the most in line with Trump.
According to FiveThirtyEight, all but one of the seven Republican senate candidates embraced the former president’s election fraud lies as they fought for his coveted endorsement in a state he won by eight points in both 2016 and 2020.
Trump, for his part, ultimately ended up endorsing Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance in a move that surprised many, because Vance had previously been vocally opposed to the former leader and his competitors had spent months running ads noting that fact.
However, the fight for Trump’s backing appears to have been worth it. Last week, a Fox News poll found that support for Vance has surged by double-digits since Trump’s endorsement, making him the front-runner.
Still, as FiveThirtyEight reports, “other factions of the party haven’t given up the fight either — which means the primary will be a direct test of how much clout Trump has when other Republican elites dare to defy him.”
Meanwhile, there are also concerns regarding the ongoing legal battle over Ohio’s congressional map and the confusion that has caused for the state’s election calendar. For weeks, it was widely believed the state’s primaries would be pushed back after the Ohio Supreme Court ordered GOP lawmakers to redraw their map.
The map had been gerrymandered to give Republicans 12 out of the 15 congressional seats in the state even though they had only won around 55% of the popular vote. Ohio voters also previously passed a constitutional amendment in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.
The election, however, is still going forward anyway, even as early voting was down a whopping 40% from the last election, and the legislative races will not be on the ballot Tuesday, meaning there will have to be a second primary, which will likely drive down turnout even more.
Other Major Races This Month
There are also other notable contests scheduled for later this month. On May 17, there will be two additional races for seats vacated by Republican senators in North Carolina and Pennsylvania that will serve as important indicators of the former president’s sway over the party.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, the main Trump test focuses on two statewide races for the positions currently held by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R). The two infamously angered Trump after they refused to help him overturn the election, and as a result, many are watching to see if the former president’s full-fledged pressure campaign against them will work.
In Georgia and other battlegrounds voting this month, Democrats are also hoping they can make inroads — particularly in Pennsylvania. But recent polls have not painted a good picture for the party. Last week, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 47% of voters said they were more likely to vote for the Republican in their district, while just 44% said they would back Democrats.
The poll marked the first time in eight years that a Marist survey found the GOP with an advantage for congressional ballot tests.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (FiveThirtyEight) (PennLive)
New York’s Highest Court Strikes Down Democrat-Gerrymandered Map
The move represents a major blow to Democrats, who stood to gain as many as three seats in Congress if their map had been accepted.
Appeals Court Ruling
The New York State Court of Appeals struck down a congressional map drawn by the state’s Democrats Wednesday, dealing the party a major blow.
In the decision, the state’s highest court agreed with Republicans who had argued that the map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Democrats. The justices called the map “substantively unconstitutional as drawn with impermissible partisan purpose.”
The court also condemned the Democrats for ignoring a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that aimed to limit political influence in redistricting, which included the creation of an independent entity to draw maps that the legislature would then vote on. However, the commission created to prevent partisan gerrymandering was unable to decide on a map because of its own partisan stalemate. As a result, Democrats in the legislature took it upon themselves to draw a final map.
But the version that the legislature passed and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed into law re-drew lines so that Democrats could have gained as many as three new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Such gains would be highly significant in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, where Republicans are expected to make substantial gains and may very well take back the House. Unsurprisingly, Republicans sued, and a lower court struck down the map.
In their order, the Appeals Court justices took away the legislature’s ability to make the map and instead delegated that power to a court-appointed “neutral expert.”
While the judges did say there was enough time to finish the map before the primary elections in June, they also added that the Congressional contests would likely need to be moved to August. Races for governor and other statewide officials, however, would stay the same.
The Appeals Court ruling is unique in that it targets Democrats, but it also comes as part of the broader trend of state courts cracking down on gerrymandering — though most other instances have stemmed from GOP-drawn maps.
In just the first four months of 2022, state courts in Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas, and Maryland have all struck down redistricting plans crafted by lawmakers.
Unlike the New York ruling, some of those other courts have implied that they will still allow those maps to be used in the 2022 elections. Such a decision would very likely disadvantage Democrats even more.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
McCarthy Warned Far-Right Lawmakers Could Incite Violence After Jan. 6 in New Audio of Leaked Call
The conversations represent a marked difference from the public efforts of McCarthy and other Republican leaders to downplay their members‘ actions.
Four days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) expressed concern about far-right Republicans inciting violence and openly voiced support for censoring them on Twitter, according to audio published by The New York Times on Tuesday.
The recordings, which come from a call among party leaders and aides on Jan. 10, are by far the clearest evidence top Republicans acknowledged that their members played a role in stoking violence before the insurrection and threatened to do so after.
They also emphasize the vast difference between what top Republicans, especially McCarthy, said behind closed doors, and how they downplayed and ignored the actions of their members in public.
One of the most notable elements of these recordings is that McCarthy and the others explicitly identified several individuals by name. They focused mainly on Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) and Mo Brooks (R-Al.) as the primary offenders.
In the audio, McCarthy can be heard flagging Gaetz right off the bat.
“Tension is too high. The country is too crazy,” he added. “I do not want to look back and think we caused something or we missed something and someone got hurt. I don’t want to play politics with any of that.”
Specifically, McCarthy and the others talked about how Gaetz had gone on TV to attack multiple Republicans for being unsupportive of former President Donald Trump after Jan. 6. They particularly expressed concern over his targeting of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), who was a member of the leadership team and had already been facing threats.
Others on the call also noted that Brooks had spoken at the rally before the insurrection, where he made incendiary remarks that many have viewed as direct calls to violence. McCarthy said the public comments from his members “have to stop,” adding he would call Gaetz and have others do the same to tell him that this “is serious shit” and “to cut this out.”
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the second-ranking House Republican, asserted at one point that Gaetz’s actions were “potentially illegal.”
“Well, he’s putting people in jeopardy, and he doesn’t need to be doing this,” McCarthy responded. “We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.”
Republicans on the call also mentioned incendiary remarks from other members, including Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx.), Barry Moore (R-Al.), and Lauren Boebert (R-Co.). Cheney pointed to Boebert as a security risk, noting she had tweeted out incredibly sensitive information about the movements of top leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) during the attack on the Capitol.
“Our members have got to start paying attention to what they say, too, and you can’t put up with that shit,” McCarthy added later. “Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?”
McCarthy in Hot Water
The newly published recordings also come just days after The Times reported that McCarthy had told members on a call after the insurrection that he would urge Trump to resign.
McCarthy initially called the reporting “totally false and wrong,” but shortly after his denial, The Times received permission from their source to publish audio where he can be heard saying precisely that.
McCarthy, for his part, has tried to spin the situation, claiming that his remarks were still true because he never actually followed through on the plan to call Trump.
Still, the situation prompted widespread backlash from the far-right faction of the Republican party.
Multiple people expressed hesitancy about their support for McCarthy as Speaker of the House if Republicans take control of the chamber in the midterm elections. Some said they could not trust him.
Speaking on his show Tuesday, Foxs News host Tucker Carlson called McCarthy “a puppet of the Democratic Party.”
Gaetz also responded with ire, tweeting out a statement in which he referred to the call as “sniveling” and said of McCarthy and Scalise: “This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders.”
Other members mentioned in the call, however, appeared to brush it off. In a statement to Axios, Moore claimed that the story was engineered by “RINOS” (Republicans in Name Only), and that “Republicans will be more united than ever after taking back the House this November.”
It currently remains unclear whether these revelations with pose any long-term threat to McCarthy, but if Trump is any indication of the far-right party line, the House leader may be in the clear.
After The Times published the audio of McCarthy saying Trump should resign, the former president told The Wall Street Journal that the relationship between the two men was untroubled.
“I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly,” he added. “They realized they were wrong and supported me.”