Rep. Boebert's outburst was certainly not the first time a State of the Union has been disrupted

State of the Union Boebert
Posted at 5:11 PM, Mar 02, 2022

DENVER — Congresswoman Lauren Boebert made headlines Tuesday for an outburst during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

The president was speaking about the support he would like to provide for veterans, including expanding the eligibility to VA benefits for nine additional respiratory cancers.

“A cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin,” the President said.

Right as the president was about to mention his son, Major Beau Biden, who died from brain cancer, Boebert yelled out, “You put them in, 13 of them.”

The Republican congresswoman who represents Colorado's 3rd congressional district, was alluding to the soldiers who were killed during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.

Along with the outburst, Boebert wore a shall that read, “Drill baby drill,” on the back.

Boebert and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., were also heard chanting, “Build the wall!” when the president was speaking about immigration and border security.

After the address, congressman Jason Crow, who represents Colorado's 6th congressional district, condemned the outburst, saying his Republican colleague doesn’t know what she’s doing and doesn’t understand service or sacrifice.

“What becomes increasingly clear is the level of her depravity, which is deep. In enduring a moment where the President was trying to honor our fallen as the commander in chief, a very somber moment that both Republicans and Democrats were recognizing and reflecting on, she took it upon herself to show politics and try to interrupt the President's speech, which was entirely inappropriate,” Crow said.

Boebert doubled down on her outburst on Twitter saying, “When Biden said flag draped coffins I couldn't stay silent. I told him directly he did it. He put 13 in there. Our heroic servicemen and women deserve so much better.”

Traditionally, presidential addresses to Congress are treated with a certain amount of decorum. It’s one of the few moments each year when the American public and others from around the world hang on the president’s words.

“This is an event where people are supposed to put their best foot forward, really, and so having some respect for the person who's giving the speech and some sense of the importance of the occasion does matter,” said Elizabeth Skewes, the chair of the journalism department at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Historically, members of Congress have shown their approval or disapproval for the president’s policies by either standing and clapping or staying seated and silent during different moments of the speech.

However, Boebert’s outburst was not the first time a member of Congress has disrupted a presidential address.

“I think it speaks to kind of the breakdown of civil discourse in politics, which I think is damaging overall,” Skewers said. “To the degree that things like this remove civility out of our politics, it makes it harder to do the work that Americans have elected these people to office to do.”

In 2005 while delivering his State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush was loudly booed as he spoke about the Social Security system, saying it would be bankrupt by 2042.

Four years later in 2009, Congressman Joe Wilson, R-SC, yelled at President Obama as he spoke to Congress about his health care plan and insisted undocumented immigrants would not be covered.

“Wilson did apologize after the fact saying that his emotions got the best of him and he did reach out to the President and apologize. I would be surprised if an apology is forthcoming from Congresswoman Boebert,” said Michael Berry, the chair of the political science department at the University of Colorado at Denver.

The next year, in 2010, there was another memorable but much more subtle moment when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was caught on camera shaking his head and mouthing, “Not true,” as President Obama spoke about the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision.

More recently, in 2020 there was a lot of attention given to a perceived snub by President Donald Trump after he either intentionally or unintentionally rebuffed an attempt by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to shake his hand.

After the speech, Pelosi was seen on camera tearing up her copy of the speech and tossing it aside.

“That was after the speech had concluded,” Berry said. “So, I think there are some differences between kind of a more a more silent kind of act like what Pelosi did with the tearing of the speech in half as opposed to a verbal outburst.”

Last year, Boebert also grabbed social media headlines when she loudly opened up a space blanket during a portion of President Biden’s joint address to Congress when he was talking about immigration.

Despite this, Berry still considers congressional outbursts to be rare and hopes it stays that way for the sake of civility.