Pelosi Says She Tore Up Trump's 'Manifesto of Mistruths' as Dems Label His Speech a 'Right-Wing Reality Show'

President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday night was branded by Democrats as having the characteristics of a campaign rally, minus the loud music he deploys upon entry and exit. His populist political rhetoric was met with boisterous chanting and applause from his Republican supporters.

But this time, other factors were at play for the president, such as a room half-filled with angry Democrats, who throughout his roughly 90-minute speech could be heard from the press gallery above bemoaning Trump's remarks or doing chants of their own. More importantly, there was a speaker of the House over his left shoulder, who less than two months ago led the effort to pass two articles of impeachment against him.

The result was a public display for millions of Americans to bear witness the feud between Trump and Nancy Pelosi that's played out largely behind closed doors over the years, and it was far more significant than her infamous clap-back to Trump at last year's State of the Union.

This year's annual address to Congress began with Trump snubbing Pelosi's handshake and ended with the California Democrat ripping a copy of the president's speech to shreds. Her act of disdain seemingly took some of the spotlight away from Trump in the closing moments of the event.

"It was a manifesto of mistruths," Pelosi told reporters afterward of Trump's remarks. "We always extend a hand of friendship. If he rejects it, that's up to him."

Pelosi added that he would "hopefully not" be giving another State of the Union come next year. "We're expecting another president, nine months from today," she said.

In a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday morning, Pelosi received a standing ovation, according to a Democratic aide in the room.

"I tried to find one page I could spare that didn't have a lie on it," she said, according to the aide. "About a quarter through it, I thought, 'You know, he's selling a bill of goods like a snake oil salesman. We cannot let this stand.' So, somewhere along the way, realizing what was coming, I started to stack my papers in a way that were tear-able."

Democrats, like Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, defended the speaker. She thought it "was a reflection of what [Pelosi] thought of his words: they were hollow, they rang untrue and they were hurtful."

Republicans, like House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, labeled Pelosi's act "disgraceful," while Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) called it "a shameful spectacle."

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) said, "Are you kidding me? That was so juvenile, and I think beneath the dignity of that office. Maybe she wanted to be in the news cycle instead of the president's message." Lesko, like Johnson, was a member of Trump's impeachment trial public relations defense team.

2020 State of the Union
Vice President Mike Pence claps as Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi appears to rip a copy of US President Donald Trumps speech after he delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 4. Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty

Some Democrats suggested they missed the moment right after Trump concluded his remarks when Pelosi tore up a copy of his speech, while some Republicans said they failed to notice him rejecting her handshake.

"Maybe she was just through with it," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). "But it was obvious he didn't want to shake hands with her. This is not about personal relationships. This is about responsibility."

Johnson said he did not see Trump's snub. "We were sort of distracted. Perhaps the president was as well. I'm not even sure if that was intentional on his part."

A "right-wing reality show"

Peppered with inaccuracies, such as his claim to protect pre-existing medical conditions while his administration is advocating in court to strike them down, or how Democrats want to provide "millions of illegal aliens" with free, taxpayer-funded health care, Democrats portrayed Trump's message as one that was divisive and meant to fuel his base.

"I thought it was like a right-wing reality show," Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said, citing the moment Trump took the unusual step to have First Lady Melania Trump award the controversial and far-right radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The 69-year-old revealed on his show this week that he has advanced lung cancer.

"He is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet," Trump said. The decision to award Limbaugh with the highest civilian honor was met with audible moans and groans from Democrats.

Trump awards Rush Limbaugh State Union
Radio personality Rush Limbaugh pumps thumb after being awarded the Medal of Freedom by First Lady Melania Trump after being acknowledged by US President Donald Trump as he delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 4. Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty

"I couldn't help but think how he treated John McCain. And then he's giving a Presidential Medal to Rush Limbaugh at a State of the Union address," said a frustrated Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) "The president has no class. He should have, out of respect, taken the speaker's hand. But after delivering what essentially was a campaign rally speech that was terribly dark and divisive, I think the speaker did the right thing ripping the speech up."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) expressed regret for even attending. "That was a disgrace. I should not have gone. It was a re-election pep rally from beginning to end, filled with political stunts and verifiable lie after verifiable lie," he wrote on Twitter. "I get it - presidents use their last SOTU to make the case for re-election. But that crossed a line."

Early into Trump's speech, chants of "Four more years! Four more years!" from Republicans were reminiscent of campaign rally-goers, something Hoyer said was not representative of a president who wants to express a willingness for bipartisanship.

"It was a State of the Union designed to appeal to the base, not to bring our country together," he said. "The fact-checkers are going to have a field day."

Concerning policy, the president fell far short, Democrats said, citing Trump's lack of specifics. They were disappointed he did not mention topics such as climate change and gun violence prevention.

"It was absurd. It's like The Apprentice gone to the White House," Raskin said. "All of us have to resist the temptation to get into the authoritarian reality show that is the Trump administration. This is a totally fake reality show presidency."

Trump did manage to heed the advice from Republicans to avoid uttering the term "impeachment." The GOP-led Senate is expected to acquit the president along mostly party lines Wednesday afternoon.

Republican lawmakers said they found the president's message to be an "optimistic" one, as Lekso said, and that he remained "upbeat" by averting talk of impeachment. They found Trump's speech and demeanor to be "Reaganesque," referring to former President Ronald Reagan.

"It was actually very Reaganesque," said Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who changed his party affiliate from Democrat to Republican last year and pledged his "undying support" to Trump amid his opposition to impeachment. "There should always be a modicum of respect for anyone who is the president of the United States."

"To me, it was Reaganesque," agreed Johnson. "I thought it was a unifying speech and was very optimistic, reminding the country of the great strides that have been made over the last three years. It's something that ought to be applauded and not turned into a partisan spectacle."

This story was updated to include information and remarks from Pelosi during a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday morning.