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Katie Britt’s kitchen-table rebuttal to State of the Union baffles GOP

Sitting in front of a kitchen done in shades of beige, with a couple of family photos, a faucet and a fruit bowl visible in the background, Sen. Katie Boyd Britt (R-Ala.) delivered the Republican Party’s rebuttal to President Biden’s State of the Union address Thursday night.

The kitchen was among several elements of her speech that drew criticism ranging from baffled to mocking — not just from Democrats, but from Republicans who said the setting undermined Britt’s stature as a senator and questioned her halting, theatrical delivery. The speech swiftly began drawing jokes and parodies.

“Senator Katie Britt is a very impressive person,” conservative commentator Alyssa Farah Griffin wrote on X. “I do not understand the decision to put her in a *KITCHEN* for one of the most important speeches she’s ever given.”

“This speech is not what we need,” said Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative youth organization Turning Point USA. “Joe Biden just declared war on the American right and Katie Britt is talking like she’s hosting a cooking show.”

Britt, a 42-year-old freshman senator with longtime experience on Capitol Hill, was chosen to deliver the rebuttal as a figure representative of the next generation of congressional Republicans. She also focused on immigration, crime and the economy and sought to remind viewers of Biden’s age.

A senator from Alabama and a mother, she was also a clear choice for delivering the message to viewers that Republicans support IVF — days after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos should be considered children, a move that sparked a national backlash for its threat to in vitro fertilization procedures. In her speech, Britt did not defend the ruling but instead tried to reassure viewers that Republicans support IVF, without noting that dozens of GOP lawmakers have backed a bill that would define life as beginning “at conception” without protections for IVF.

But with her performance, during which her dramatic tones and pauses appeared to differ from her usual way of speaking, she joined the ranks of speakers whose State of the Union responses have gone down in history as missteps. In 2009, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was panned for his response to President Barack Obama’s speech. And in 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) memorably sipped bottled water during his rebuttal.

“Not sure whose genius idea it was to put a U.S. Senator in the kitchen to deliver the response to the [State of the Union],” Republican pollster Christine Matthews said in a social media post Friday morning.

Matthews noted that, in panels she has conducted over the past decade with women swing voters, ads featuring women speaking about health care in the kitchen “just sets women voters off.”

“Instead of the relatable look they were going for here — given the rollback of reproductive rights and the IVF fiasco — it sends the message that Republicans are literally trying to send women back to the kitchen,” Matthews added.

A spokesman for Britt did not immediately respond to a request from The Washington Post. Some members of Britt’s party praised her performance, including Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who applauded her on Truth Social, writing, “Great job Katie!”

“Katie Britt was a GREAT contrast to an Angry, and obviously very Disturbed, ‘President,’” Trump wrote.

This was the third consecutive year that Republicans chose a woman to give the rebuttal, and showing viewers a young White mother at home appeared to be a clear strategy targeting female voters. An ally of Britt’s sent talking points to conservatives suggesting reactions to the speech before it occurred, the New York Times reported, in a memo that suggested that Britt “came off like America’s mom — she gets it.”

In his post, Trump made sure to point out that Britt “was compassionate and caring, especially concerning Women and Women’s Issues.” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) highlighted Britt’s address as “speaking directly to parents and families across the nation.”

Many concluded that the tactic had not worked. Griffin, speaking on CNN, said it was “confusing” to women watching.

“Women can be both wives and mothers and also stateswomen,” Griffin said. “So to put her in a kitchen, not in front of a podium or in the Senate chamber, where she was elected after winning a hard-fought race, I think fell very flat.”

Meanwhile, Democrats called out GOP stances on reproductive rights and other women’s issues, which Britt defended in her speech. Many pointed out Thursday the irony of Britt decrying the reported sexual assault and trafficking of a woman whose story she told in the speech, while having endorsed Trump, who was found by a jury to have sexually abused and raped writer E. Jean Carroll.

“Sen Katie Britt says sexual assault is the worst thing that can happen to a woman while encouraging Americans to vote for a convicted sexual predator,” Shannon Watts, founder of the gun-control group Moms Demand Action, wrote on X.

Democrats also noted that, under Alabama’s abortion ban — one of the strictest in the country, with no exceptions for rape or incest — a rape victim would be forced to carry their rapist’s baby to term.

And while Britt was highly critical of the Biden administration’s immigration policies, Democrats pointed out that she was among the Republican senators who helped negotiate a bipartisan border security deal — but then ultimately voted against it after Trump signaled to congressional Republicans that no immigration policy should pass during the election year.

Meanwhile, some Republicans worried that the speech hadn’t had its intended effect in reaching female voters, particularly in suburban swing districts.

Allie Beth Stuckey, host of the Christian conservative podcast “Relatable,” praised the kitchen setting but called the speech “a real missed opportunity.” She noted on X that Britt was in the difficult spot of needing to seem relatable, likable, and “happy, but not too happy … upset, but not too emotional.”

“But the delivery was parody-level terrible,” Stuckey said, “and I promise that didn’t sway any of those suburban moms we’re trying to reach.”

Mariana Alfaro contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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