Photo of Pelosi applauding Trump becomes an internet-defined clap back

PHOTO: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claps her hands at President Donald Trump during the State of the Union address at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 5, 2019.PlayDoug Mills/Pool via Reuters
WATCH Photo of Pelosi applauding Trump becomes an internet-defined clap back

Clapping for him, or clapping at him?

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At first, it looked like applause, but Americans around the country have quickly circulated an iconic photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauding during President Donald Trump's State of the Union address -- one some viewers say captured a much more nuanced message.

The moment came after weeks of extraordinary political barbs the two have traded over the longest-ever government shutdown that delayed the very State of the Union speech Pelosi watched from her seat just behind Trump Tuesday night.

The photograph shows Pelosi, with pursed lips and looking directly at Trump, making a pointed, exaggerated hand clap, in a memorable image captured by New York Times photojournalist Doug Mills and taken by the internet to be a real, live clap back.

PHOTO: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence applaud President Donald Trump at the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 5, 2019. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence applaud President Donald Trump at the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 5, 2019.

It happened near the beginning of Trump's second State of the Union address, but the first before Pelosi as speaker.

Rhetoric soaring, the president had called for the country to step into the "next chapter of this Great American Adventure" -- one where "amazing quality of life for all of our citizens is within reach," communities are "safer," families are "stronger," cultures are "richer," faith is "deeper" and the middle class is "bigger and more prosperous than ever before."

"But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution -- and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good," Trump said, as loud applause broke out.

Pelosi, who appeared to be reading along on her copy of the president's speech, looked up, rose from her seat and began to enthusiastically clap, her arms stretched toward the president, who then turned around to face her.

Her look signaled agreement but had a decided edge.

A few minutes before, Trump had started talking before Pelosi could give him the traditional introduction, in which she would have said it was her "distinct honor and high privilege to present to you the President of the United States."

Trump didn't congratulate her on becoming speaker, either, as President George W. Bush did the last time Pelosi held the position. So far, neither party has issued a comment or explanation on the divergence from tradition.

Pelosi's daughter, Christine, reacting on Twitter Wednesday morning, described what she saw in that closed-mouth smile and pointed clap: "oh yes that clap took me back to the teen years. She knows. And she knows that you know. And frankly she’s disappointed that you thought this would work. But here’s a clap. #youtriedit."

Other Twitter users picked up similar vibes of a motherly look.

And the nuance of traditionally a laudatory action to signaling an entirely different sentiment.

When Pelosi was asked Wednesday if Trump's speech had the desired effect of pushing forward a compromise -- moving the needle either way, as a reporter asked her -- she brushed off the question.