President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020, as Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., watch. (AP) President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020, as Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., watch. (AP)

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020, as Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., watch. (AP)

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson February 5, 2020

Nancy Pelosi deviated from tradition in introducing President Trump at 2020 State of the Union

If Your Time is short

  • Between the 2007 and 2018 addresses, every speaker has said something very close to the following: “Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States.”

  • Pelosi didn't introduce Trump at all ahead of his 2019 State of the Union. Looking at the video, it appears Trump started his speech before Pelosi could formally introduce him.

  • At the 2020 State of the Union speech, Pelosi introduced Trump by saying, "Members of Congress, the president of the United States."

Following President Donald Trump’s 2020 State of the Union Address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ripped up a copy of Trump’s speech in full view of the cameras. But earlier, she made a less dramatic deviation from protocol.

CNN host Jake Tapper noted the shift in his post-speech analysis, as well as in a tweet that attracted more than 36,000 likes.

Tapper wrote, "Traditionally, the Speaker says: ‘Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United States.’ (Tonight) Speaker Pelosi said, ‘Members of Congress, the President of the United States.’ "

Tapper is right, we found. 

We looked back at all of the speaker-president interactions in State of the Union addresses going back to 2007, which was Pelosi’s first as speaker. (The 2009 and 2017 addresses are technically not considered State of the Union addresses, but we counted them too.)

Between the 2007 and 2018 addresses, every speaker has said something very close to the following: "Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

Here’s the rundown, with links to the video.

2007: Pelosi to President George W. Bush:

"Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

2008: Pelosi to Bush:

"Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

2009: Pelosi to President Barack Obama:

"Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

2010: Pelosi to Obama:

"Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

2011: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to Obama:

"I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting the president of the United States."

2012: Boehner to Obama:

"Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

2013: Boehner to Obama:

"Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

2014: Boehner to Obama:

"Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

2015: Boehner to Obama:

"Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

2016: Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to Obama:

"Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

2017: Ryan to Trump:

"Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

2018: Ryan to Trump:

"Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States."

The Pelosi-Trump interactions

The pattern changed abruptly in 2019, with Trump as president and Pelosi as speaker.

In 2019, Pelosi didn’t say anything before Trump started speaking. It’s unclear whether there was a miscommunication, but Pelosi insisted to reporters later that "there was no snub. It went quickly, I guess."

In 2020, Pelosi did say part of the phrase — but as Tapper noted, it was just a part. She said: "Members of Congress, the president of the United States."

Pelosi’s office did not respond to an inquiry for this article.

Our ruling

Tapper tweeted, "Traditionally, the Speaker says: ‘Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United States.’ (Tonight) Speaker Pelosi said, ‘Members of Congress, the President of the United States.’ "

Between 2007 and 2018, Pelosi and her successors used that language or something close, regardless of the party affiliations of the speaker and the president.

In 2019, for unclear reasons, Pelosi didn’t speak before Trump started. This year, she did, but she left out the part about a "high privilege and distinct honor."

We rate the statement True.

Our Sources

Jake Tapper, tweet, Feb. 4, 2020

C-SPAN videos for past State of the Union addresses linked in text

Business Insider, "Nancy Pelosi broke tradition when introducing Trump at the State of the Union, leaving out the words 'honor' and 'privilege,’" Feb. 4, 2020

Presidential addresses to Congress:

2007: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to President George W. Bush

2008: Pelosi to Bush

2009: Pelosi to President Barack Obama

2010: Pelosi to Obama

2011: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to Obama

2012: Boehner to Obama

2013: Boehner to Obama

2014: Boehner to Obama

2015: Boehner to Obama

2016: Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., to Obama

2017: Ryan to Trump

2018: Ryan to Trump

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Louis Jacobson

Nancy Pelosi deviated from tradition in introducing President Trump at 2020 State of the Union

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