“It was a huge struggle for me because I don't think people realize it's worse when you're actually there,” Tlaib said Friday, during a panel discussion with Omar. “… There was moments of triggering and I kept holding your hand and we intentionally sat next to each other to support each other.”
Unlike the other half of the squad, Tlaib and Omar, D-Minn., attended the address to send Trump a message that they aren't going anywhere. But Tlaib, D-Mich., said she couldn’t take it anymore when Trump conducted an impromptu Medal of Freedom ceremony for conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh.
"We ended up leaving, especially when they just went full out applause when they put that medal around Rush,” Tlaib said.
All four members of the freshman squad were together and celebrated Friday at a Washington event for progressive activists called The Rising Majority, a coalition of the Movement for Black Lives and other like-minded organizations.
Omar and Tlaib discussed their decision to attend Trump’s raucous State of the Union address – which ended with the GOP chanting “Four more years!”
And the other half of the squad explained their decision to boycott.
“I went last year. He's not all that,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said of Trump. “Much less impressive in person than on television. And I just didn't want to sit through that.
“Ultimately, we knew what was going to come. We knew it was going to be racist, Islamophobic, classist [and] history denying. I just didn't feel like spending my evening legitimizing that," Ocasio-Cortez added.
The fourth squad member, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said she didn’t want to give anyone the opportunity to “weaponized” images of her making disapproving faces at the president into internet “memes.”
“I wanted to control my own narrative, my own image," Pressley said on why she didn't attend.
The four freshmen said there was no wrong way to protest and supported each others’ methods of resistance.
The State of Union ended Tuesday in dramatic fashion when Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up the speech.
The Democratic Women’s Caucus dressed in white as a sign of unity and to send a message of female empowerment to Trump, but Tlaib said she even grappled whether to join.
“Because I mean the suffrage movement, didn't always include the brown [and] black women. It was hard for me,” Tlaib said, who decided on a white Palestinian thobe in a nod to her heritage.
After Tuesday’s State of the Union, Tlaib told MSNBC that she was also triggered by Trump’s mention of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed in the Senate after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were high school. Kavanagh denies it.
"Just as a woman in America, the fact that he rightfully was accused and having an incredibly strong woman come for the public and the world and tell her story of sexual assault by this person who was appointed to the Supreme Court is just ... I couldn't stand still and not do anything about it and I needed to walk away from that," she added.