UPDATE: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech and told reporters that tearing up the address was “the courteous thing to do considering the alternatives.”
Pelosi had been responding to a question from Fox News producer Jason Donner.
The moment was one of many that showed the deep partisan fissures in Congress. Trump did not mention impeachment during his speech, but it was certainly on many minds. The House impeachment managers sat together, while Trump showered praise on one of his biggest defenders, radio personality Rush Limbaugh, going to the extraordinary length of awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the address.
White House officials quickly tweeted out the moment when Pelosi tore up the speech.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) said that he does’t “worry about the speaker ripping up the speech. I worry about her ripping up the Constitution, which she did, in this partisan, unfair impeachment process.”
Before his address, Trump walked to the rostrum and handed a copy of his speech to Pelosi. But he turned away from her as she tried to extend her hand for a handshake.
Pelosi tweeted out that moment and wrote, Democrats will never stop extending the hand of friendship to get the job done #ForThePeople. We will work to find common ground where we can, but will stand our ground where we cannot.”
The incidents dominated post-speech coverage, as commentators were wondering about the strange situation of Trump delivering an address with Pelosi, who presided over his impeachment in the House, sitting right behind him.
CBS News senior political analyst John Dickerson said, “Not only did the president not shake the speaker’s hand, she did not say the traditional words, ‘it’s my high privilege and distinct honor to introduce the president.’ You saw there it was an absolutely split evening. The division in America was out there for all to see.”
Kasie Hunt, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent, told anchor Lester Holt, that the “tenor and mood in this room” was “more campaign-like and partisan than any I’ve covered in the last decade of covering these types of speeches inside the chamber, State of the Unions, joint addresses. In fact, there are still some Republicans here in the chamber flashing their thumbs up to Rush Limbaugh, who of course was given the presidential medal of freedom as this all unfolded.”
On Fox News, Brit Hume said of Pelosi’s tearing up of the speech, “I think there is an element of rage in it.”
PREVIOUSLY: President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address was in many ways like previous ones — a laundry list of accomplishments and goals.
But on Tuesday, he also featured several moments that resembled reality show-like reveals — moments of surprise that generated peak emotion.
That was the case toward the end of his speech, when he reunited a woman, Amy Williams, with her husband, Townsend Williams, who has been on his fourth deployment in the Middle East.
“Amy’s kids have not seen their father’s face in many months,” Trump said, before announcing that her husband was in the chamber. Townsend Williams then walked down the steps of the gallery to hug his wife.
Earlier, Trump announced that he was awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, who was in the chamber. Then, he had First Lady Melania Trump present him with the medal from the first family’s section of the House gallery. Limbaugh appeared taken aback in the moment, and held his hands to his mouth.
He also introduced Janiyah Davis, a fourth grader from Philadelphia, and announced that she would be awarded an Opportunity Scholarship as part of a school choice initiative.
“I can proudly announce tonight that an Opportunity Scholarship has become available, it is going to you, and you will soon be heading to the school of your choice!” Trump said, as Republicans in the chamber applauded wildly.
PREVIOUSLY: When President Donald Trump announced that he was presenting the Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, some Democrats in the chamber shouted, “No.” But Republicans cheered, and one lawmaker shouted “Go Rush!” as the radio host put his hands to his face and stood up, moved by the moment.
In an unusual moment for a State of the Union address, the medal was presented to Limbaugh by First Lady Melania Trump as they sat together in the first family’s section of the House gallery.
Limbaugh announced on Monday that he has been diagnosed with an advanced stage of lung cancer.
Trump called Limbaugh “the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet.”
“Rush Limbaugh: Thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country,” Trump said.
PREVIOUSLY: President Donald Trump entered the House chamber for the State of the Union address to loud cheers from Republicans and a smattering of claps from some Democrats. Some, like Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), sat in his seat and remained silent as Trump entered.
The House impeachment managers, who have been arguing for Trump’s removal over the past few weeks, stood, as only Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) clapped slowly and lightly.
Trump stepped up to the rostrum and handed a copy of his speech to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but turned away as she extended her hand forward. It was unclear if Trump noticed.
Trump quickly focused on the economy in his speech, telling the lawmakers, “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline, and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny.”
PREVIOUSLY: President Donald Trump’s guests at Tuesday’s State of the Union address include radio host Rush Limbaugh, who announced that he has an advanced stage of lung cancer.
As the House chamber filled with lawmakers, their guests and members of the media, Limbaugh, sporting a beard, took his seat in the front row of a space usually reserved for the First Family and their friends. Joining Limbaugh was his wife, Kathryn Adams, and they chatted with Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner. Limbaugh, who announced his diagnosis on his show on Monday, arrived in a wheelchair.
Earlier in the day, Trump reportedly told network news anchors at a White House lunch that he is planning to award Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The State of the Union address is coming amid the impeachment process, making for a tense and awkward atmosphere as Trump enters the chamber and delivers his speech with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sitting right behind him. Sitting at a desk near the front row were the House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Trump has signaled that he will not focus on the expected Senate acquittal, with a vote scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
The differences between the respective sides of the chamber were stark: On one side, Republican men in dark suits and red ties. On the other, many Democratic women wearing white. A number of Democratic lawmakers, such as Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, announced beforehand that they were skipping the speech, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are on the campaign trail.