House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) didn’t stand up to clap when President Joe Biden referred to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Near the beginning of his speech, Biden summed up the troubles he faced when he took office that month, making a nod to the riot at the U.S. Capitol just days before his inauguration.
“And two years ago, our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War.
Today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken,” the president said.
Although McCarthy did not react, it is not uncommon for a House speaker from the opposing party to not show enthusiasm during a president’s State of the Union address. The speaker sits directly behind the president, along with the vice president, during the annual address, which puts the speaker’s reactions on display.
McCarthy has faced criticism for his comments on the insurrection in the past. Shortly after the attack on the Capitol, McCarthy said publicly that former President Donald Trump “bears some responsibility” for the Jan. 6 riot by supporters who were incited to act as Congress met to certify the Electoral College vote. A leaked audio recording from Jan. 11, 2021, also revealed McCarthy describing Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 as “unacceptable,” adding that “nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it.”
But McCarthy was reluctant to place full blame on Trump for the deadly riot. Days after this initial comment, he shifted his stance and said that Trump never provoked the mob to attack the Capitol but that everybody in the country had some responsibility for the insurrection.
Shortly after his comments, McCarthy visited Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to discuss strategies for winning the U.S. House majority in the 2022 midterm elections. The Republican Party was able to win a slight majority in last November’s elections, and McCarthy, after failing on several votes, was made House speaker last month.