Pelosi pursed her lips as she clapped toward President Trump right after he called for an end to "the politics of revenge" during the State of the Union

By Jen Juneau
February 06, 2019 10:22 AM
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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi pointedly applauded President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address Tuesday night right after he called for an end to “the politics of revenge” — but was she genuine, sarcastic or somewhere in between?

Speech watchers were divided on the gesture, which saw Pelosi purse her lips as she clapped toward the president. (A spokesman was not immediately available to comment to PEOPLE, but a top Pelosi aide retweeted video of the moment.)

“We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,” were the words Trump, 72, uttered before the round of applause from Pelosi, Vice President Mike Pence and others gathered at the U.S. Capitol.

Twitter ran rampant with responses to the now-viral moment, with many insisting that not only did Pelosi make a statement with her clap — given the president’s history of inflammatory comments about his opponents — but that Trump seemed not to notice.

“The best part was when he turned and actually thanked her! Just perfect,” one user wrote, describing the nod and verbal thanks he offered Pelosi, 78.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (right) eracts to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union on Tuesday
Doug Mills / Pool, via CNP /MediaPunch

While others called the move “disrespectful,” slamming Pelosi for her “weird” behavior and accused her of not doing “anything meaningful in her entire career,” supporters virtually applauded the Democratic politician for what they construed to be a subtle jab.

“An Oscar for @SpeakerPelosi for having to keep smiling through that whole speech with such dignity, face muscle & eye roll control. That takes endurance & skill,” one tweet read.

Another Twitter user wrote, “Love her. Treating him like the giant toddler he is.”

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In contrast to his regular elbows-out style of rhetoric, the president stuck tightly to a more conventional script for his SOTU address. In a characteristic early line, he told assembled Congressmembers: “Victory is not winning for our party. Victory is winning for our country.”

Later, however, Trump returned to his chief concerns: restricting immigration and preventing further investigations of his family, businesses and administration. In other policy proposals, Trump called for national paid family leave and a ban on late-term abortions and reiterated foreign policy goals including pushing back on Iran and negotiating with North Korea.

Following the speech, Pelosi issued a statement arguing that part of Trump’s call for an end to probes of his administration “threatened the United States Congress not to exercise its constitutional responsibility of oversight.”

“It will take days to fact-check all the misrepresentations that the President made tonight,” she said. “Instead of fear-mongering and manufacturing a crisis at the border, President Trump should commit to signing the bipartisan conference committee’s bill to keep government open and provide strong, smart border security solutions.”

Pelosi accused Trump of “completely ignor(ing) the gun violence epidemic that is claiming lives across the country,” and went on to urge the president to “end his assault on health care and the dignity of the LGBTQ community” if he wants to make an impact on ending HIV transmission in the country.

Women wear white during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address
Alex Brandon/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Tiffany Trump
Andrew Harnik/AP/Shutterstock

Like the president’s daughter Tiffany Trump, Pelosi was notably dressed in all white as Trump addressed Congress Tuesday night for his third annual SOTU.

Many Democratic women in the House, led by the speaker, wore white to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. (Democratic men in the House wore white ribbons or white themselves, according to ABC News.)

The white reportedly had another meaning, as well: It was intended to draw focus to issues Democrats say are under assault by the Trump-led Republican Party, such as reproductive rights.

Given the one-sidedness of the color coordination, some speech observers were quick to wonder whether Tiffany, 25, was making a subtle statement in agreement with her father’s opponents — or a fashion faux pas with an unintended political edge.