During his seventh and final State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama gave a speech that didn't shy away from a number of heavy topics. Yet one comment from the president had Twitter up in arms, and offended users tweeted en masse about what they believed to be a big gaffe on Obama's part — namely, that the Middle East's problems date back thousands of years.
"As someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time," Obama said. "But that's not because of diminished American strength or some looming superpower. In today's world, we're threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states."
"The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia," Obama continued. The key word in question was "millennia," a timeline that was hotly debunked on Twitter in the hours after the presidential address.
Actually, no, the Mid East isn't suffering a "millenia" sectarian conflict. It's stoked by selfish players seeking regional dominance. #SOTU
Contemporary conflicts in the Middle East are not "millennia-old," they're the direct result of modern era imperialism & colonialism #SOTU
OK, we've been had, we've been took, hoodwinked, bamboozled,run amok & condemned to endure "conflicts that date back millennia". #SOTU
Also, what conflict in ME started a millennia ago? Incredible faithwashing of political situations mitigated by US/EU foreign policies #SOTU
These mid east conflicts don't date back millennia, they date back to various US interventions and 'nation building' campaigns #SOTU
Weakest moment of the speech is the claim that the Middle East is embroiled in conflicts that date back millennia. No. #SOTU
SOTU Conflicts date back millenia? that's a long time. Not so sure about that. #Everythinghasahistory and lets get that history right
In all seriousness, the idea that Middle Eastern conflicts "go back millenia" is ahistorical and dangerous. #SOTU
The core problem with the representation of Middle Eastern history is, of course, that it's false. But beyond that, it could "feeds two dangerous and mistaken beliefs" to frame relations in the region in such a light, Vox reported, in that it could perpetuate a mindset about the territory that could breed misunderstandings about its people and the Muslim religion and perpetuate biases against the refugees fleeing the area in search of security.
That type of representation is in stark contrast to the core themes that permeated the rest of Obama's address. At one point, Obama sublty took aim at Republican presidential hopeful and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, when he decried the candidate's position on Muslims, particularly his proposal to enact a ban on Muslim immigrants entering the U.S.
"When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn't make us safer," Obama said. "That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country."
Yet despite the president's "millennia" mistake, many reacting on Twitter had positive thoughts about the message Obama was aiming to communicate to the American people and to the world. Among the topics he discussed were a dire need for political cooperation across party lines; the legacy and the future of the American government; terrorism and fear surrounding the threat of the Islamic State group, or ISIS; climate change; and international diplomacy, among other issues.
Great @BarackObama speech for his last #SOTU . Must Watch it . Politics and Leadership at its best. #WHJedi https://twitter.com/whitehouse/status/687110537172234240 ...
One of my favorite lines in #SOTU: "The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It's not even close." -@POTUS
@POTUS just made case for an even more perfect Union. #YesWeCan #NoMoreEmptyChairs #SOTU
In his last #SOTU, #POTUS calls for BOTH protecting the right to vote & the integrity of the vote. @Unite4Democracy #RestoretheVRA #cwa
@POTUS outlined a confident & optimistic vision for our nation. Much achieved but work remains http://1.usa.gov/1N6t5i3 #SOTU
I'm glad he reminded everyone of the remarkable record of last 7 years: 14 million jobs created, 17 million getting health coverage. #SOTU
Proud of our progress and the bold vision of innovation and equality that @POTUS has laid out for our nation. Let's get to work. #SOTU
Meanwhile, despite Obama's call for increased understanding and cooperation across the political aisle, users reacting to the SOTU address were, perhaps unsurprisingly, starkly divided.
Set aside the Union, Obama's mind is in a state of confusion, delusion and decay. #SOTU http://www.mikehuckabee.com/2016/1/huckabee-responds-to-obama-s-address ...
They're rerunning the #SOTU. No human being should be forced to sit through that thing twice. #GenevaConventions
@krauthammer on foreign policy in #SOTU: "It was completely disconnected from reality. He actually spoke of Syria as some kind of success."
In his #SOTU @POTUS said we need to "fix our politics." He's right-but only God can fix our nation: http://on.fb.me/1mY1Gdz #DecisionAmerica
Ryan on Obama: If everything were as great as he said it was, 2/3 of the American ppl wouldn't say the country is on the wrong track #SOTU
I applaud Obama's optimism. But I have a real problem basing that optimism on what govt has done or is likely to do. #tcot #tlot #SOTU
Despite the polarized response on Twitter, an instant poll from CBS News during the event showed that the vast majority of viewers approved of the remarks and proposals Obama made during his address — earning the president a 91% approval rating on his seventh SOTU speech.