The most striking moment of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night was, unusually, something he had no control over.
Women in Congress repeatedly got to their feet to cheer Trump’s mentions of successes enjoyed by women — including the fact that the 116th Congress includes a record-breaking number of female legislators.
Despite Trump being at the podium, the reaction appeared to get away from him.
The impromptu moment began when Trump said “no one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women.”
Democratic lawmakers, wearing white to honor suffragettes, then rose to their feet and cheered, leaving Trump to joke, “You weren’t supposed to do that.”
And they rose again when Trump said there were more women in the workforce than at any other point in history.
And, as they continued to celebrate, he said, to laughter: “Don’t sit yet — you’re going to like this.”
Trump then said that there were more women serving in Congress than at any other point in history, leading House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, seated behind Trump, to take to her feet and encourage lawmakers to join her — the other lawmakers then cheered, high-fived, and chanted “USA.”
After waiting for things to settle, Trump said: “That’s great. Really great. And congratulations, that’s great.”
The three-minute clip starts at 52:00 in C-Span’s video:
Lawmakers from both parties took part in the celebration, and Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s daughter Ivanka could be seen standing and clapping.
But some Democrats saw the moment as one of celebration in spite of Trump, rather than with him.
Rep. Ann Kuster of New Hampshire told The Hill after Trump’s speech that Trump ended up “ticked off” as lawmakers kept cheering and that, ultimately, “the joke was on him.”
“We were super-excited and high-fiving,” Kuster said. “And he really didn’t realize what was going on — he didn’t understand what we were doing.”
“Part of it is that we wanted to draw attention to the contrast of our caucus, that reflects the diversity of the American people … And we were hoping that just by wearing white, that the cameras would pick that up,” she said.
“We didn’t realize that we’ve have a big opportunity to demonstrate that … Finally, he did [understand], because he got very — he was ticked off.”
“I think he caught on that the joke was on him,” she added.
And Pelosi noted to reporters after the address that Trump did not point out that most of the women in Congress he celebrated were Democrats.
“He forgot to acknowledge it’s only 15, what is it, 15 Republicans and 91 Democratic women in the Congress of the United States on the House side,” she said, according to The Hill.
“So it was like weird you’re bringing this up,” she said. “And I loved the way the women just rose to the occasion.”
There are 113 women in Congress, the most ever. Of those, 102 are in the House of Representatives.
Women account for 38% of all House Democrats and 36% of Senate Democrats, while they make up 8% of House Republicans and 15% of Senate Republicans.
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