McCarthy warns Republicans not to misbehave at State of the Union, promises no 'childish games' like Pelosi's infamous speech tearing moment

Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy; former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images; MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
  • McCarthy swiped at Pelosi ahead of Biden's state of the union address on Tuesday.

  • "We're not going to do childish games tearing up a speech," he told CNN.

  • Pelosi infamously ripped up a copy of Trump's speech after his 2020 SOTU address.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy insisted that Republicans would show proper decorum during President Joe Biden's state of the union address on Tuesday evening, swiping at former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's viral moment tearing up former President Donald Trump's speech after his 2020 address.

"We're members of Congress. We have a code of ethics of how we should portray ourselves," McCarthy told CNN's Manu Raju on Tuesday. "And that's exactly what we'll do. But we're not going to do childish games tearing up a speech."

Privately, however, McCarthy has expressed concerns about his own caucus' behavior and has warned them about their conduct, according to CNN's Melanie Zanona.

Pelosi made headlines when she ripped up a copy of Trump's speech after he delivered his third state of the union address three years ago. The top Democrat at the time remarked to reporters that "it was a courteous thing to do, considering the alternatives."

"It was such a dirty speech," she said.

McCarthy, the newly elected House speaker, will take Pelosi's previous seat on the platform behind Biden during his address on Tuesday night. The president is planning to lay out his plans to advance his "unity agenda" this year, including policies to fight cancer, help veterans, provide mental health treatment, and fight opioid addiction.

In a closed-door meeting with the House Republican conference on Tuesday, McCarthy and other GOP leaders warned members to behave during the address, per CNN's Zanona.

The "cameras are on," and the "mics are hot," House GOP leadership reportedly said in the meeting.

Republicans have also made headlines for outbursts during past presidential state of the union speeches, which are viewed by millions.

Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado heckled Biden last year when he talked about how his son Beau's death may have been linked to burn-pit exposure during his Iraq deployment. She shouted that he put "13 of them" in coffins, a reference to 13 American troops who were killed in Afghanistan during the US' chaotic withdrawal.

Boebert and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia also tried to start a "build the wall" chant last year during Biden's speech.

Former President Barack Obama later said he was "shocked" and wanted to "smack" Rep. Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, for yelling "you lie" during Obama's 2009 State of the Union Address when he was talking about his plans for the Affordable Care Act.

"My initial instinct is, 'Let me walk down and smack this guy on the head. What is he thinking?'" Obama said during a CBS interview in 2020 when his book "A Promised Land" was released.  "And instead, I just said, 'That's not true,' and I just move on. He called afterward to apologize – although, as I point out in the book, he saw a huge spike in campaign contributions to him from Republicans across the country who thought he had done something heroic."

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