Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley blasted “partisan troll” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday for tearing up President Trump’s State of the Union speech, calling for her to apologize or step down.
“Her conduct tore up more than a speech, but decades of tradition and left any semblance of civility in tatters on the House floor,” Turley wrote on his website.
Turley explained that he “marveled at the beehive of activity on the floor in the People’s House” when he was able to visit as a Democratic 15-year-old page over four decades ago.
“The country was deeply divided, but both parties maintained the tradition of civility and decorum. I was struck how members, even in the heat of furious debates, would not attack each other by name and followed rigid principles of decorum. They understood that they were the custodians of this institution and bore a duty to strengthen and pass along those traditions to the next generation,” Turley wrote. “That is why I was (and remain) so offended by this display.”
Turley -- who was called before the House Judiciary Committee to argue against impeachment -- feels that Trump “is worthy of criticism for not shaking the hand of Pelosi” and he didn’t approve of some aspects of the speech, but that doesn’t excuse Pelosi’s behavior.
"If Pelosi does not apologize and agree to honor the principle of neutrality and civility at the State of the Union, she should resign as speaker."
“At that moment, she represents the House as an institution — both Republicans and Democrats. Instead, she decided to become little more than a partisan troll from an elevated position,” Turley wrote. “It was the tradition of the House that a speaker must remain in stone-faced neutrality no matter what comes off that podium. The tradition ended last night with one of the more shameful and inglorious moments of the House in its history.”
Pelosi ripped up her copy of Trump’s speech as soon as it concluded on Tuesday night in a remarkable scene that has shocked pundits and lawmakers. Asked about the moment by Fox News afterward, Pelosi said she had destroyed the speech “because it was the courteous thing to do considering the alternatives.” She also said she was "trying to find one page with truth on it" but "couldn't."
Turley concluded his column by calling for Pelosi to either apologize or let someone else do her prestigious job.
“For those of us who truly love the House as an institution, it was one of the lowest moments to unfold on the floor… if Pelosi does not apologize and agree to honor the principle of neutrality and civility at the State of the Union, she should resign as speaker,” he wrote.
Turley is the Shapiro Professor of public interest law at George Washington University and a practicing criminal defense attorney.
Fox News’ Gregg Re contributed to this report.