Fact Check

Did the ACLU Complain That Trump Said 'America' Too Many Times in State of the Union?

Unreliable web sites misrepresented the substance of the American Civil Liberties Union's critical response to President Trump's address.

Published Feb 1, 2018

Updated Feb 28, 2018
 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Image Via Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
The American Civil Liberties Union issued a response to President Trump's 2018 State of the Union address complaining that he used the word "America" more than 80 times.

On 30 January 2018, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address, eliciting both praise and criticism, including a written response from Faiz Shakir of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) condemning Trump's speech as exclusionary and divisive.

In a classic case of either missing or purposely misrepresenting the point (it's hard to tell which), the right-wing web site CNS News published an article (and other sites with a similar slant reposted it) declaring that the ACLU had complained that Trump repeated the word "America" more than 80 times during his address:

The American Civil Liberties Union — note the word "American" in its title — complained Tuesday night about President Trump's repeated use of the word "America" in his State of the Union speech.

In a written response to Trump's speech, Faiz Shakir, the ACLU's national political director, said:

Tonight, President Trump said the word ‘America’ more than 80 times in his speech. Yet, after a divisive first year, we hear and feel how exclusionary that ‘America’ is, with policies that have harmed so many vulnerable American communities. The ACLU stands ready to protect these communities, both in the courts and at the polls.

In particular, the immigration plan put forth by Trump would hold Dreamers hostage to his demands for a harmful border wall and an even larger mass deportation force. We are at this crossroads because of the President’s deeply destructive ideas fomented by his nativist allies and divisive rhetoric. We will continue to stand up for these young immigrants and ensure they continue to contribute to our country. We cannot let America’s Dreamers be deported.

We, too, counted more than 80 instances of "America" (including variants such as "American" or "Americans") in a transcript of the address, but that's neither here nor there. We're not shocked or dismayed, and we can only assume the political director of the ACLU wasn't shocked or dismayed, that a presidential address would contain so many references to America and Americans.

The shocker, rather, is that CNS News had the temerity to open their article with a statement directly contradicted by the quote that followed, in which Shakir clearly did not complain about Trump's repeated use of the word "America." On the contrary, he criticized Trump for advocating immigration policies that, in his view, go against everything "America" stands for.


Shakir, Faiz.  "ACLU: Trump's America Is Exclusionary."   ACLU.org.  30 January 2018.


Correction [2 February 2018]: The State of the Union speech took place on 30 January 2018, not 20 January as a previous version of this article erroneously stated.

David Emery is a West Coast-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.