In Brief

What happened at Trump’s divisive State of the Union speech?

Nancy Pelosi rips up copy of Trump’s speech following campaign rally-style address

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up her copy of the president’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, after the president delivered an address that divided Congress.

Donald Trump spoke of the “great American comeback”, setting out the case for a second term in the White House as Republican lawmakers chanted “four more years”.

He also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour, to the controversial conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh, who revealed this week that he is suffering from lung cancer, is popular among American conservatives, The New York Times reports. 

But, the paper adds, he is unpopular with others due to his “ardent opposition” to the Affordable Care Act and attacks on Sandra Fluke, a law student whom he mocked in 2012 as a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she spoke to a congressional hearing about birth control.

As Trump arrived to deliver his speech, the president snubbed the offer of a handshake from Pelosi, who in turn eschewed the tradition of welcoming the president as a “distinct honour”, The Guardian reports.

With Trump wrapping up his speech, Pelosi then theatrically ripped up her copy of the text, later describing it as “the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative”.

The moment paralled Pelosi sarcastically clapping following the president’s speech in 2019. The clip went viral at the time, “prompting a slew of memes and praise for her world-class skills in the art of the subtle diss,” says The Guardian.

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During this year’s address, Trump said that “in just three short years”, the country has “shattered the mentality of American decline and... rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny”.

“We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back!”, he added.

Sky News reports that Trump focused on economic progress, “putting this forward as the main reason voters should give him a second term in November”.

In what NPR describes as a “made-for-TV” address, one noteable stumble came when Trump claimed that some people are trying to destroy health care. CNN reports that the statement was met with crys of “you” from a chorus of Democrats.

Reflecting on the speech, USA Today said: “An evening that is traditionally ceremonial and courteous, even boring, instead reflected the angry divisions of America’s politics and launched what seems destined to be a very rough campaign year.”

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