Politics

Democrats Skipping State of the Union for Separate Women’s Event

Pair of Democrats attending ‘State of OUR Union’ with women’s rights activists instead

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., is slated to speak at an event of women activists Tuesday night instead of attending President Donald Trump's State of the Union address. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

At least 11 Democratic lawmakers will skip President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address Tuesday.

Instead, at least two of those absentees plan to take part in a separate event in Washington, the “State of OUR Union,” put on by leading women activists to “offer an alternative view and vision for the country” from Trump’s.

Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee are slated to speak at the forum Tuesday.

Rep. Judy Chu had been on the speakers list but is attending Trump’s State of the Union address, a spokesman confirmed.

The event planners hope to “address the persistent gender inequality and ‘crisis of leadership’” they believe is harming America, they said in a statement on Monday.

Jayapal and the 10 other lawmakers who have announced they will boycott Trump’s speech Tuesday night cited the president’s caustic and often controversial rhetoric — especially with regard to race — as the primary reason for their no-show.

Watch: Three Things to Look For During Trump’s First Official State of the Union

“This president has consistently indicated that he has no interest in leading a unified country,” Jayapal said in a statement earlier this month. “He has gone out of his way to play to a small and shrinking base of voters by using language that diminishes and demeans vast swaths of people in our own country and around the world. He does and says things that none of us, as parents, would condone for our children.”

Trump uses language that is “outright racist,” Jayapal added.

The “State of OUR Union” program at the National Press Club Tuesday is a gesture to “resist this racism and put forward our own progressive vision for our beloved country,” Jayapal said.

Reps. John LewisMaxine WatersFrederica S. WilsonGregory W. Meeks, Danny Davis, Bobby RushJan SchakowskyAlbio Sires, and Earl Blumenauer are the other Democrats who previously announced they will skip Trump’s speech.

Each of those lawmakers has said Trump’s vulgarity, especially comments deemed hostile to nonwhite people, played a factor in their decision.

The president has vehemently denied claims that he is racist.

“No. I’m not a racist. I’m the least racist person you will ever interview,” Trump told reporters this month.

Watch: What You Won’t See On Camera at the State of the Union

Other Democratic lawmakers plan to demonstrate at the SOTU address in other ways. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers will wear all black in solidarity with sexual harassment and assault victims.

Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women. He has denied every such allegation against him.

Skipping the State of the Union address, while rare, is not without precedent.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas missed President Barack Obama’s final SOTU speech in January 2016 because he was campaigning for president in New Hampshire.

Cruz’s absence was not a protest, just a scheduling conflict, his campaign spokesman, Rick Tyler, told The Dallas Morning News at the time.

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