US lawmaker calls out Zelensky’s ‘North Korea-style’ speech
Vladimir Zelensky’s speech to Congress on Wednesday night was a “North Korea-style act” in which US lawmakers were expected to stand and clap for the Ukrainian president or be branded as traitors, Representative Matt Gaetz has claimed.
Gaetz (Florida) was among several Republicans, including Representatives Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Lauren Boebert (Colorado), who were called out by Newsweek and other media outlets for remaining seated while other lawmakers gave Zelensky multiple standing ovations. GOP Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri and others who didn’t attend the Ukrainian leader’s call for weapons to fight Russia were also criticized.
“When we say you shouldn’t send endless amounts of money to this place where we’re exacerbating death and conflict, it’s like we’re traitors to the movement because Lauren Boebert and I didn’t stand up in some sort of North Korea-style performance,” Gaetz said on Thursday night in a Fox News interview.
Historian and NBC News contributor Michael Beschloss was among those who condemned anyone not sufficiently enthusiastic about Zelensky’s visit to Washington. He demanded to know “exactly why” some members of Congress refused to clap. “I’d like to know why that was for two reasons,” he said on MSNBC. “Number one: You’re a public servant, we’re allowed to know those things. You’re supposed to tell us if you’re serving in Congress what the reason was. Do you love Putin, or are you just opposed to democracy, or is there something else?”
On Thursday, the Senate passed a $1.7 trillion spending bill that included nearly $45 billion in new funding for Ukraine. Congress has now approved about $100 billion for US aid to Ukraine since Russia launched its military offensive against Kiev in February.
Gaetz speculated that congressional leaders saw Zelensky’s visit to Washington as “air cover” for an “indefensible” spending bill. “I feel no compunction to go out and applaud some foreign leader from a historically corrupt country who is begging for more than the $100 billion that the Congress has already set to send them.”
Hawley told reporters that he didn’t attend the speech “because I didn’t want to be part of a photo op, asking for more money from the United States government when they haven’t given us a single piece of accounting on anything they’ve spent.”