Archived: Boycott of State of the Union Grows, Maxine Waters to Give Televised Response

President Donald Trump’s Tuesday night State of the Union (SOTU) address comes just weeks after he reportedly called Haiti and African nations “shithole countries” during a meeting on immigration in the Oval Office.

Several Democratic lawmakers of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are boycotting the SOTU because of Trump’s rhetoric and policies created to undo “generations of struggle for equal rights, for civil, human and voting rights, for the rights of women, for social and economic justice,” Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) said.

On Monday Davis, along with Reps. Bobby Lee Rush (D-Ill.) and Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), announced they will skip the SOTU, joining Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

Waters will also give a televised rebuttal to Trump’s speech on a BET News special, “Angela Rye’s State of the Union,” airing at 10 p.m. Wednesday, according to a press release. Following Waters’ commentary, Rye and an expert panel will discuss Trump’s first year in office and explore ways to increase and mobilize Black political power to enact change.

Trump’s speech is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. E.S.T. Tuesday. Immediately following, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) will deliver the Democratic Party response.

Waters, 79, is widely recognized as one of the most outspoken political leaders against Trump’s presidency, calling for his impeachment on several occasions. She has even received death threats for her opposition to Trump.

The president reportedly shunned the idea of hearing the CBC’s thoughts on immigration during the Jan. 11 meeting at the White House, where he made disparaging remarks about Haitian immigrants.

“Trump was curt and dismissive, saying he was not making immigration policy to cater to the CBC and did not particularly care about that bloc’s demands,” according to The Washington Post.

“‘You’ve got to be joking,’ one adviser said, describing Trump’s reaction.”

It was reported that in a meeting on Jan. 19, the CBC discussed several options of protesting at the SOTU, including walking out, wearing African-themed attire and even not showing up all. DiversityInc contacted CBC for a statement, but did not receive a response as of press time.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) told The New Yorker the group did discuss an “appropriate response” to the SOTU.

“The CBC meeting on Jan. 19 was called at the spur of the moment by the chairman, Representative Cedric Richmond,” she said. “And we all gathered not too far from where we were having the general Caucus meeting.

“We discussed what we thought was an appropriate response to the president giving the State of the Union speech, given what his policies demonstrated to us and how he has not responded to the document that was shared with him early on about the issues that were important to the Black Caucus.

“Because, if you recall, the president said to Black people, when he was running for office, ‘What have you got to lose'”

Coleman said the group of lawmakers attending would wear red pinsinscribed with the name “Recy” on their attire. The pins are a tribute to Recy Taylor, a Black woman who in 1944 was kidnapped and raped by six white men in Alabama. On Jan. 7, Oprah Winfrey paid tribute to Taylor at the Golden Globe awards.

“Watson Coleman hopes to attend the address with Rose Gunter, who is Taylor’s niece and was also Taylor’s caregiver until her death, last December, at the age of ninety-seven,” according to The New Yorker.

The CBC members boycotting have expressed why they refuse to be present.

“I cannot in good conscience stand silently by and watch generations of struggle for equal rights, for civil, human and voting rights, for the rights of women, for social and economic justice be undone from the highest office in the land,” Davis said Monday.

Rush also said in a statement Monday that Trump’s presidency was built on “racism, stupidity and lies.”

On MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” Jan. 12, Waters explained why she is not attending the SOTU.

“Why would I take my time to go and sit and listen to a liar” she said. “Someone who lies in the face of facts, someone who can change their tune day in and day out. What does he have to say that I would be interested in”

Lewis said told MSNBC’s Katy Tur on Jan. 12, “I cannot in all good conscience be in a room with what he has said about so many Americans,” he said.

“I just cannot do it. I wouldn’t be honest with myself.”

Wilson told the Tampa Bay Times on Jan. 14, “It would be an embarrassment to be seen with him at a forum that under any other president would be an honor to attend.”

Several other Democrats have also announced they would not attend the SOTU: Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.).

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