As President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union speech Tuesday, the normally packed house for such addresses was a little less packed: At least 14 Democrats in the House of Representatives did not attend.
Before now, the largest boycott of a State of the Union was during President Richard Nixon’s 1971 address, CNN reports. The Congressional Black Caucus had just formed when Nixon gave the speech, and the entire, 12-member group opted not to attend because they said Nixon declined to meet with them.
But with at least 14 lawmakers skipping Trump’s Tuesday speech, this year’s boycott surpasses the previous record set under Nixon. Even weeks after President Bill Clinton was impeached, only four lawmakers opted not to attend his 1999 State of the Union out of anger at the president, CNN reports.
“This is a presidency that has been built on racism, stupidity, and lies, which has already wasted enough of America’s time and I will not waste any more of mine,” Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., told Roll Call.
Rush was joined by fellow Reps. John Lewis, Maxine Waters, Frederica S. Wilson, Gregory W. Meeks, Pramila Jayapal, Jan Schakowsky, Barbara Lee, Albio Sires, Earl Blumenauer, Steve Cohen, Al Green, Juan Vargas and Danny Davis in announcing ahead of the speech that they would not attend, Fox News reported.
In addition, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has been battling brain cancer at home in Arizona, did not plan to attend, The Arizona Republic reported.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she was unlikely to attend as she was on a book tour with an event scheduled Tuesday in Rhode Island, but she did not officially confirmed she would be skipping the address, The Cut reported.
While other Democratic lawmakers planned to attend the State of the Union, at least two dozen —including Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calf. — planned to wear black in solidarity with movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up, protesting sexual harassment. Others planned to bring young undocumented immigrants facing deportation or people who have experienced sexual harassment as guests.
Science advocate Bill Nye attended as a guest of Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., nominated by Trump to head NASA, according to The Washington Post.
Trump started delivering the State of the Union at 9 p.m. Eastern time before a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, with all major networks and cable news channels carrying the speech live.