Obama heckled at White House event, asks security to escort offender out

A heckler is removed after interrupting US President Barack Obama at a reception to observe LGBT Pride Month at the White House.
A heckler is removed after interrupting US President Barack Obama at a reception to observe LGBT Pride Month at the White House. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP/BLOOMBERG) - United States President Barack Obama would normally expect a warm welcome from gay rights activists, particularly in his own home at the White House, but that was not the case on Wednesday. He usually plays it cool when faced with the occasional heckler, but when one of his own invited guests to the East Room of the White House turned on him at a LGBT Pride Month event on Wednesday he shut it down fast.

Mr Obama was repeatedly interrupted by persistent shouts from a member of the audience, prompting a few awkward minutes before the President instructed the individual be ejected.

"Listen, you are in my house," said a finger-waging Mr Obama, as the lady in the black dress, who was identified in a press release from the anti-deportation group Not1More as transgender activist Jennicet Gutiérrez, could be heard to shout about deportations in English and Spanish. "You know what, it is not respectful," he added. "You're not going to get a good response from me by interrupting me like this."

When it became clear the protester would not stop, Mr Obama said: "Shame on you," adding, "You shouldn't be doing this," and asked his security detail: "Can we escort this person out? You can either stay and be quiet or we'll have to take you out."

Finally, he decided to make the call: "Ok, can we have this person removed please?"

The crowd chanted "O-Ba-Ma!" to drown out the shouts.

A visibly angry Mr Obama joked with the crowd: "As a general rule I am just fine with a few hecklers. But not when I'm up in the house.

"My attitude is if you're eating the hors d'oeuvres... You know what I'm saying? And drinking the booze...."

The anti-deportation group said that Ms Gutierrez, who called on Mr Obama to stop all deportations, felt she could not celebrate while transgender detainees were in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.  

The roughly two-minute disruption aside, the President, joined by Vice-President Joe Biden and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers, seemed to enjoy the festive event.

"We've got a lot to celebrate," he said, and added that he would be watching for a Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. Whatever the decision, he said, there had been an incredible shift towards accepting gay marriage in America.

"This is a rowdy crowd," he also said. "I don't want you guys to break anything while you're here."