Senate Democrats criticized Republicans for "twisting the rules of the U.S. Senate" by using a little-known senate rule to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) during debate over attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

When Senate Republicans invoked a little-known rule Tuesday night to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the middle of a speech criticizing attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Democrats were stunned.

But it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's defense of the rare move later that launched a thousand tweets.

“Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech,” he said. “She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

[The silencing of Elizabeth Warren and an old Senate rule prompted by a fistfight]

If the Republican senators had intended to minimize Warren's message, the decision backfired — severely.

Her supporters immediately seized upon McConnell's line — giving Warren a far bigger megaphone than if they had simply let her continue speaking in what had been a mostly empty chamber, some pointed out.

“Thanks for the new battle cry,” one person tweeted.

As had been the case through a long, embittered presidential campaign (see: “basket of deplorables,” “nasty woman"), an off-the-cuff phrase meant to end a debate was instead turned into a badge of honor by the other side.

#ShePersisted, #LetLizSpeak and “Silencing Elizabeth Warren” were among Twitter's top trending topics in the United States by Wednesday morning.

Women in particular bristled at the sentiment — essentially, to sit down and stop talking — and noted it was hardly unfamiliar to them.

On the heels of the furious tweets came the memes.

Soon, people were applying McConnell's trio of sentences to any notable situation — historical or fictional — in which women had been silenced.

The Suffragettes. Rosa Parks. Harriet Tubman. Malala Yousafzai. Even Princess Leia.

That Warren had been interrupted as she was reading a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King, the wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., added extra insult to injury for many.

For her part, Warren did persist in reading King's letter in its entirety — outside the Senate chamber, on Facebook Live, where it garnered over 4.5 million views by early Wednesday morning.

After Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) struck down Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) attempt to read a letter from Coretta Scott King on the floor of the Senate during the debate on attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, Warren read the letter outside the doors of the Senate and streamed it live. (Facebook/Sen. Elizabeth Warren)

Read more:
From ‘nasty woman’ to ‘failing pile of garbage’: When an insult becomes a badge of honor

The silencing of Elizabeth Warren and an old Senate rule prompted by a fistfight

Read the letter Coretta Scott King wrote opposing Sessions’s 1986 federal nomination

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