Democrats at first looked skeptical when President Trump brought up women’s economic empowerment during his State of the Union address.
“No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women,” Trump said.
Vice President Mike Pence stood up behind Trump, but Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remained seated. And in the seats of the House chamber, Democratic women, largely dressed in suffragette white, at first remained seated as well and looked around at one another.
But then some of those lawmakers began offering lukewarm applause. Some stood up. And eventually more got to their feet and began to clap. Other lawmakers pointed at the Democratic women in white, as if to point out that the women — many newly elected to Congress in a Democratic wave — were clapping for themselves, not for the president whose speech they were listening to.
“You weren’t supposed to do that,” Trump teased Democrats.
There was a smattering of laughter in the House chamber, where senators, Supreme Court justices, members of the House and all of their guests were seated to hear the yearly speech.
“All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before,” Trump added next, bringing the Democratic women to their feet again.
The women sat down, and Trump joked with them again.
“Don’t sit yet,” Trump said. “You’re going to like this.”
He wasn’t lying.
“Exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before,” Trump said.
That brought the Democratic women in white to their feet again, as they high-fived one another and raised their arms. Chants of “USA, USA” erupted in the House chamber.
A reporter for Vox wrote on Twitter that at least one lawmaker yelled “Thank you Nancy!” amid the applause about the number of women in Congress.
A New York Times reporter wrote that Democrats started the USA cheer — then a “couple women try to get a ‘Thank you Nancy’ chant going, but that doesn’t catch on.”
Before Trump’s speech had even ended, Nancy Pelosi — well, her official Twitter account — had responded to his women-focused message.
“Trump tells our women: ‘you weren’t supposed to do that.’ We’ve heard enough,” a Tweet from her account said. “He wants us to believe that he and his Administration are fighting for women. There’s a reason why support among women and independents is dropping.”
Pelosi’s message shared a Washington Post article with the headline: “Trump’s poll numbers with women and independents have tanked since November”