President Obama may be steadily heading toward the end of his term in office, but when a heckler interrupted a speech he was giving at a gay pride month reception at the White House Wednesday, he made sure that the person knew that they were still in “my house.”
“Hold on a second,” Mr. Obama said, when the audience member launched into a protest about the detention and deportation of gay, lesbian, and transgender immigrants.
As the heckler continued, Obama took on the mannerisms and body language of an annoyed parent. Shaking his head and wagging his finger, the president said the word “no” more than a dozen times.
“Hey. Listen. You're in my house," he said to laughter from the crowd. "You know what? It's not respectful when you get invited to somebody. You're not going to get a good response from me by interrupting me like this. I'm sorry. I'm sorry ... Shame on you, you shouldn't be doing this."
A press release by the advocacy group #Not1More identified the heckler as Jennicet Gutiérrez, an undocumented immigrant who is transgender.
“The White House gets to make the decision whether it keeps us safe," Ms. Gutiérrez said in a statement. “There is no pride in how LGBTQ and transgender immigrants are treated in this country. If the President wants to celebrate with us, he should release the LGBTQ immigrants locked up in detention centers immediately.”
The president has had to deal with vocal critics ever since he took office and has been faced with heckling before. As the Monitor's White House correspondent Linda Feldmann reported:
To many observers, instances of the president being heckled are on the rise – particularly, in the case of Obama, by those to his left – though numbers are scarce. Even Mark Knoller of CBS Radio, keeper of myriad presidential statistics, begs off: “Sorry, haven’t kept a heckle count.”
Obama's most notable heckle came during a 2009 speech to Congress where he discussed his health-care plan. “You lie!” shouted Rep. Joe Wilson (R) of South Carolina when Obama asserted that his plan wouldn’t cover undocumented immigrants. During that speech the president mainly ignored the statement, but this time he decided to take on Gutiérrez head-on.
The protester was eventually drowned out by boos and chants of “Obama” from the rest of the crowd before the president called on security to escort the person out.
“As a general rule, I am just fine with a few hecklers. But not when I am up in the house," said Obama said smiling after Gutiérrez was led out.