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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tears her copy of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address after he delivered it to Congress on Feb. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Walsh) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tears her copy of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address after he delivered it to Congress on Feb. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Walsh)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tears her copy of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address after he delivered it to Congress on Feb. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Walsh)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman February 6, 2020

No evidence Pelosi planned to tear Trump’s State of the Union speech at start

If Your Time is short

  • Video shows Pelosi taking papers and holding them underneath the desk where she was seating.

  • But that moment wasn’t at the start of the speech. The RedState journalist who made the original claim had to issue a correction.

  • Pelosi said she decided to tear up the speech after reading it while Trump was speaking.

One of the most viral moments of President Donald Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address was when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., publicly tore up a copy of his speech.

Republicans called her actions after the speech disrespectful, Democrats celebrated her ripping Trump on national TV. Others engaged in a playground-like "he started it!" pointing out Trump did not shake her hand at the outset of the speech.

Now a conservative journalist says her tear was premeditated before Trump started his address.

"Here's Pelosi testing to see if she could rip the speech before the speech even started," tweeted Brandon Morse, a senior editor at RedState, on Feb. 5. "She was planning to do it from the start." (He credited a Reddit user for the video.)

Two hours later, Morse tweeted a follow-up

"I need to make a correction. Pelosi actually divided the papers into piles and tested them before ripping them. This exact moment caught here occurred not before Trump's speech began, but 50 minutes into it." (His article about the video got a correction, too.)

Morse’s initial tweet drew about 40,000 likes or retweets while his "correction" tweet drew less than 2,000 likes or retweets by noon the next day. So we wanted to set the record straight about his initial message.

We attempted to reach Morse but did not hear back.

RELATED: Charlie Kirk wrongly suggests Pelosi broke law by ripping Trump State of the Union speech

RELATED: Fact-checking Donald Trump's 2020 State of the Union address

Timing the tear

The video clip that Morse tweeted shows Pelosi turning over the pages of Trump’s speech, but part of her actions are underneath a table and not fully in view. Based on the video alone, we can’t say what she was doing. 

Pelosi has indicated her decision came later on in the address.

"He didn’t want to shake hands, That meant nothing to me, that had nothing to do with my tearing up —  that came much later," she said at the weekly press conference Feb. 6.

Pelosi said she started reading ahead.

"I just went right through that thing so I knew what was coming. When I saw the compilation of falsehoods, when I heard the first quarter or third then I started to think there has to be something that clearly indicates to the American people that this is not the truth and he has shredded the truth in his speech, he is shredding the Constitution in his conduct, I shredded his ‘state of his mind’ address."

That’s consistent with what was reported as telling Democrats in a closed-door meeting the day after the State of the Union. Those news reports are based on anonymous Democratic aides or people who attended the meeting.

The Hill quoted Pelosi as calling herself a "speed reader" who could not let what she saw as a "pack of lies" stand. "So, somewhere along the way, realizing what was coming, I started to stack my papers in a way that were tear-able," the Hill quoted her as saying.

ABC News and Reuters had similar accounts, and Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill  said the quotes are accurate. 

Morse’s article mentions The Hill report and then argues that "she clearly planned to rip the speech before she even knew what was in it."

The New York Post showed photos that appeared to show tiny tears on the edges of Pelosi’s paper copy. The Post showed an 18-second clip of Pelosi and said she "pre-ripped." But this moment was about 46 minutes into his speech when Trump was talking about Rush Limbaugh, not at the start. 

Here’s our take after watching Trump’s speech on C-SPAN: The camera was focused on Trump and sometimes the audience, so it doesn’t show Pelosi during every second of his roughly 80-minute speech. Pelosi was seated and her hands aren’t always fully visible. Pelosi sometimes flipped through the papers, appearing to read parts of it. Based on the video of Pelosi, we can't say when she had a thought to rip up his speech.

Our ruling

Morse says a video proves Pelosi "was planning" to rip up President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address "from the start."

Morse tweeted a video showing Pelosi flipping through a paper copy of Trump’s speech while he spoke. The video clip does not prove Pelosi planned to rip up Trump’s speech. 

A couple hours later, Morse tweeted that the video clip was actually 50 minutes into the speech. But his initial tweet drew far more reactions.

We rate this statement False. 

Our Sources

RedState senior editor Brandon Morse, Tweet, 1:01 p.m., Feb. 5, 2020

RedState senior editor Brandon Morse, Tweet, 3 p.m. Feb. 5, 2020

RedState, Watch: Pelosi Test Rips SOTU Speech Before Trump Finishes, Proving Premeditation, Feb. 5, 2020

C-SPAN, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weekly briefing, Feb. 6, 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Tweet, Feb. 4, 2020

C-Span, "2020 State of the Union Address," Feb. 4, 2020

NBC News on YouTube, "Watch Nancy Pelosi Rip Up Copy Of President Donald Trump’s State Of The Union Speech | NBC News," Feb. 4, 2020

ABC News, Pelosi unleashes on Trump: 'I shredded his state of his mind address' Feb. 6, 2020

Fox News, Pelosi practiced? House speaker apparently pre-rips SOTU speech during Trump address, Feb. 5, 2020

New York Post, Nancy Pelosi ‘pre-ripped’ pages of Trump’s SOTU speech, video shows, Feb. 5, 2020

The Hill, Pelosi trashes Trump address: 'He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech' Feb. 5, 2020

Reuters, U.S. Speaker Pelosi says she ripped up Trump speech because it 'shredded the truth' Feb. 5, 2020

PolitiFact, Charlie Kirk wrongly suggests Pelosi broke law by ripping Trump State of the Union speech, Feb. 5, 2020

PolitiFact, Fact-checking Donald Trump's 2020 State of the Union address, Feb. 4, 2020

Email interview, Drew Hammill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spokesman, Feb. 6, 2020

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No evidence Pelosi planned to tear Trump’s State of the Union speech at start

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