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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Dems Stood for Widow’s Ovation

Q: During President Trump’s address to Congress, did top Democrats remain seated during a standing ovation for a Navy SEAL’s widow?

A: No. There were two ovations and video shows Democratic leaders stood for both. However, they did not remain standing as long as Republicans.


Did top Democrats refuse to stand for the Navy SEAL widow at Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress on 2/28/17?


After Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, several readers asked if Democrats, particularly Democratic leaders, refused to stand and acknowledge Carryn Owens, the widow of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in a counterterrorism raid in Yemen on Jan. 28.

They didn’t refuse to stand. The image below shows that both Republican and Democratic members of Congress stood and applauded as Trump acknowledged Owens and his widow, who was seated in the balcony as a guest of the president and first lady.

The screenshot was taken at the 49:05 mark of a White House video, several seconds after Trump says: “We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of U.S. Navy special operator, Senior Chief William ‘Ryan’ Owens. Ryan died as he lived, a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation.”

After about 25 seconds of applause, everyone sits down and Trump continues with his speech. He says: “I just spoke to our great Gen. [James] Mattis just now who reconfirmed that, and I quote, ‘Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy.’ Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you.”

At that point, which comes at 49:50 in the video, members again stand and applaud. But the camera focuses on Owens, who is standing, clapping and crying, and remains on her feet for more than 30 seconds. When the camera turns back on members of Congress around 50:25, most Republicans and Democrats are standing, but a few Democrats are sitting, including Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the new deputy DNC chairman. Wasserman Schultz and Ellison are seated together — as seen in the circle to the left in the image below.

That led some to claim that Wasserman Schultz and Ellison didn’t stand and acknowledge Owens, which is not true. Both Wasserman Schultz and Ellison stood during the first ovation and sat down just as other members began to do so. They can be seen standing in the lower left-hand corner of the first photo above, right where the time stamp is.

What we don’t know, because of the camera angle, is whether either stood during any portion of the second and longer ovation.

It is also false, as reported by the website Independent Journal Review, that “former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and other top Democrats, however, remained seated.”

Sanders, who was seated behind the Joint Chiefs of Staff, can be seen standing in both of the photos above, and Pelosi, in a white suit, can been seen standing in the second photo. During the first ovation, Pelosi was out of view in the White House video. (For clearer images, readers should watch the video for themselves.)

The Independent Journal Review relied on a screenshot from another video that showed most Democratic members in their seats while their Republican colleagues were standing and applauding. But all that image shows is that many Democrats sat down before the Republicans did.

For example, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer and Democratic Sens. Al Franken and Joe Manchin stood and clapped during the second ovation. They then sat down for a while and then stood up again to continue applauding. The screenshot below at 51:08 in the video shows all three men standing up with Republicans while many Democrats sit.

So, no, Democratic leaders didn’t refuse to stand for Carryn Owens during Trump’s address. But the Democrats didn’t stand and applaud as long as Republicans did.


Lamothe, Dan. “A timeline of events on how the controversial Navy SEAL raid on Yemen was planned and carried out.” Washington Post. 3 Feb 2017.

White House. “The Joint Session of Congress.” YouTube video. 28 Feb 2017.

NBC News. “President Trump Honors Widow Of Fallen Navy SEAL William ‘Ryan’ Owens.” YouTube video. 28 Feb 2017.

Becker, Kyle. “Navy SEAL’s Widow at Trump Speech Received a Standing Ovation. Top Democrats’ Reaction Is Shocking.” Independent Journalism Review. 1 Mar 2017.

Shapiro, Ben. “AWFUL: Top Democrats Refuse To Stand, Clap For Navy SEAL Widow Honored By Trump.” Daily Wire. 28 Feb 2017.

Gonzales, Sara. “Meet the Democrats who refused to stand and applaud the widow of a fallen Navy SEAL.” The Blaze. 1 Mar 2017.