During a speech at a factory in Ohio on Monday afternoon, President Trump accused Democrats of being “treasonous” because they had not stood to applaud him during his first State of the Union speech. In an interview with CNN’s New Day on Tuesday morning, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) attempted to defend those remarks.
“Well, no, I wouldn’t use the word treasonous. But, boy, was it embarrassing,” he told host Alisyn Camerota.
Collins then singled out Illinois Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D), who had left the room three minutes prior to the end of Trump’s speech to get to an interview with Univision.
“When Gutierrez stood up when the president said ‘we should stand and respect our flag for the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem,’ and those of us Republicans stood and cheered and started shouting ‘USA, USA,’ Gutierrez storms out of the chamber. I think that says it all when it comes to the Democrat response,” he said. “They were stoic, sitting on their hands. They did not want to applaud at any turn…. It was just a very partisan reaction. And I’ve sat through some of former President Obama’s [State of the Union speeches].”
When Camerota played back footage of Republicans refusing to stand during Obama’s 2010, 2013, and 2016 speeches, noting that Republicans had done the same, Collins punted.
“So, congressman, why wasn’t that embarrassing?” Camerota asked.
“Well, again, it’s degrees,” Collins insisted. “As I had already acknowledged, we did not overreact or we did not stand and cheer with Obama anymore than they did. I guess it’s degrees of it. I just said I believe the Democrat response was more subdued than our’s with Obama.”
Camerota then played back a clip of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelling “You lie” at Obama in 2009, as Republicans booed the president’s immigration reform policy. Collins responded by arguing that the clip was humorous, adding that he had suggested to Wilson that Wilson stand during Trump’s first State of the Union and yell “Now that’s the truth.”
“Congressman, that’s a funny line, but you seem to be ignoring the point, which is that was incredibly disrespectful,” Camerota said. “Why are you more focused on Democrats not applauding?”
“Well, no, that was disrespectful,” he said. “[… But] Joe Wilson was reacting to something he thought was not truthful and Gutierrez was reacting to the president saying we should respect our flag.”
Gutierrez has since sought to defend himself against those accusations, repeatedly insisting that he did not leave the chamber in protest of Trump’s remarks, but rather to get to his interview on time. In a tweet shortly thereafter, he added that he had even watched the remainder of the president’s speech on a monitor outside the room.
“There is a story going around that I ‘stormed out’ of the President’s speech last night which is completely false. That I boycotted the speech or protested by leaving during an applause break is just someone’s spin,” he tweeted. “I was due on TV for an interview and the speech was running late. I waited until the President stopped talking and walked to the back and watched the last 90-seconds on TV (after sitting for 80 minutes). Then went to my interview. Those are the facts.”
Trump came under heavy criticism for his “treasonous” remarks on Monday. In that same speech, he also blasted Democrats as un-American and suggested that they weren’t patriotic.
“Even on positive news — really positive news, like [the current African-American unemployment numbers] — they were like death and un-American. Un-American,” he said. “Somebody said treasonous. Yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”
As several outlets have since pointed out, treason, as outlined in the Constitution, consists of “levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”