The 2023 State of the Union speech was marked by unexpected embraces, outbursts, questionable proclamations and interesting facial expressions by new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Cameras zeroed in on the speaker as he was seated just behind and to the right of President Joe Biden when he delivered the address.
McCarthy’s expressions were markedly tempered — particularly when compared to Nancy Pelosi when she served as speaker and former President Trump was speaking. There was no awkward clapping, rude refusal to pay attention to what was said or theatrical tearing up of the speech before leaving the stage.
McCarthy announced that, unlike his predecessor, no matter what is said, he would take the high road during the president’s speech. Apparently, this meant he would force a neutral facial expression for as much of the speech as possible. His resolve was tested.
During the speech, McCarthy seemed to alternate between appearing uninterested, being frustrated by the outburst of his party and being disappointed in President Biden.
“McCarthy’s face is priceless,” the New York Post’s Miranda Devine tweeted.
Former Trump adviser Jenna Ellis agreed, writing, “McCarthy’s facial expressions are gold.”
Some media critics assessed McCarthy’s primary expression as smugness or disappointment with his own party.
CNN’s Abby Phillip commented, “McCarthy’s face when Republicans start booing Biden is every mom when their kids start misbehaving.”
The Nation’s Elie Mystal wrote: “McCarthy’s face has devolved into the smug disregard he feels for all Americans.”
Responding to an outburst from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who interrupted by yelling, “liar” at one point, Mystal added: MTG appears to be wearing some kind of Cruella d’Ville outfit.”
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