By FARNOUSH AMIRI
WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Joe Biden was coming to the end of his State of the Union address Tuesday night, a somber moment about his son’s death turned into a stunning outburst by one of the Republicans’ most outspoken members.
Delivering the loudest heckling of Biden during the speech, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado blamed Biden for the 13 service members who were killed during the U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan.
It was just the latest breach of decorum for a presidential address, an annual event where unruly behavior by lawmakers has become almost expected. Republican Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “you lie!” at President Barack Obama during a joint speech to Congress in 2009. Eleven years later, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up a copy of President Donald Trump’s speech while standing behind him.
Boebert’s moment came as Biden began to discuss how his son, who died of cancer, was among the many veterans who may have suffered from toxic exposure injuries from military burn pits, used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“A cancer that put them in a flag-draped coffin” Biden started to say when Boebert yelled, “You put them in. Thirteen of them!”
The comment drew an outpouring of boos from Democrats, adding a note of division to an address that received several moments of robust bipartisan applause. Democrats and Republicans from both chambers stood up and clapped as the president discussed the strength and resolute of the Ukrainian people in the face of Russian aggression.
Members stood together as Biden called for an end to the opioid epidemic and when he declared that “defund the police” is not the answer to the crisis between law enforcement and the communities they serve. But it was when the mention of veterans and providing support for victims of burn pits, a normally bipartisan topic, that Boebert stood to make her case about what many in the GOP see as Biden’s failed withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan last summer. “I couldn’t stay silent,” Boebert tweeted after the speech. “Our heroic servicemen and women deserve so much better.”