May 23rd, 2013
03:55 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama heckled by Code Pink leader

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama's solemn remarks on drones and counterterrorism were interrupted at length Thursday by a protester who loudly advocated for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison – the same position Obama was stressing in his speech.

The woman shouting was identified as peace activist Medea Benjamin of the group Code Pink, whose members have been loudly interrupting congressional hearings and official speeches for years.

"You are commander-in-chief – you can close Guantanamo today," Benjamin shouted during a portion of Obama's speech in which the president outlined changes in policy that included an all-out push to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. She later yelled, "It's been 11 years!"

Benjamin herself is a frequent presence at events in Washington and elsewhere. It was unclear how she entered the speech, held at the National Defense University. Other members of the audience included students at the school, experts in human rights and national security, and government officials who have helped develop counterterrorism policies.

"This is part of free speech, is you being able to speak but also you listening and me being able to speak, alright?" Obama said upon the first interruption.

Benjamin kept up her protest, which also included a rebuke against American drone strikes which have killed civilians. Obama eventually diverted from his prepared remarks to address the situation head-on.

READ MORE: Obama says America at 'crossroads' in terror fight

"The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to," he said. "Obviously I do not agree with much of what she said and obviously she wasn't listening to me in much of what I said. But these are tough issues and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong."

On their official Twitter page, the group hailed Benjamin's protest

And in the conclusion of his remarks, Obama added another nod to Benjamin's protest as he listed ways a victory in the war on terror would be assessed.

"Victory will be measured in parents taking their kids to school, immigrants coming to our shores, fans taking in a ballgame, a veteran starting a business, a bustling city street, a citizen shouting at your concerns at a president," he said.

"The quiet determination, that strength of character and bond of fellowship, that refutation of fear, that is both our sword and our shield."

READ MORE: Obama, 'troubled' by leak probes, calls for review

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. bill

    If that wasn't staged she would have been hauled away by security.

    May 23, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. David

    @Gordon, Obama is not one of the very best presidents we have had by any measure. He also isn't one of the worst. He is closer to the middle. So far, his greatest accomplishments (IMO) are the Affordable Care Act (which cost him a democratic majority in congress for the rest of his presidency), ending the war in Iraq (I give alot of credit to him, but also to our troops and Generals on the ground), and for being elected in the first place. The fact that he was elected will probably be his legacy, unless he is able to get something done in the next 3.5 years. I am sure that his supporters will be able to list other things of note, but remember that supporters of other past presidents can similarly find accomplishments of the same caliber. Presidents are remembered for the big things, and so far, his accomplishments don't compare to LBJ, Lincoln, Washington, FDR, Jefferson, Reagan, amongst others.

    May 23, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. Cheryl

    Preservers Obama is not like Bush, he has worked to dig this country out of a big mess, others have worked very hard to stop every effort and yet he preservers. He respects others and their rights and efforts. The heckler has rights but should listen to what he said. It appears as her mind was shut and her mouth was open. People that don't want to share the responsibility of running this country or don't want to pay their fair share of the taxes are irresponsible free loaders and are traitors.

    May 23, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. metalhead65

    you know things are bad for when members of his left wing loony tunes are heckling him. the only thing he has done that I support are the drone strikes. the fact countries that support the terrorist like pakistan are against it are reason enough to continue them. to bad innocents are killed but more are killed by the terrorists than by drone strikes so keep it up until they are killed.they need to go after bin laden's #2 guy next and use the same method if necessary again who cares if we hurt pakistan or any other countries feelings while doing it. when they can go 1 day without American aid I might care what they have to say but until then screw them!.

    May 23, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    ""You are commander-in-chief – you can close Guantanamo today," "

    Oh? Can he also gift everyone a flying unicorn pony that farts rainbows, doots ice cream (already in waffle cone and your choice of 7 different flavors) and pees chocolate milk? I'm just as sick of my fellow liberals who have no real understanding of the mechanics of our government and no sense of the practical limits of the POTUS's constitutional authority and political power as I am of the Teatrolls. Does this person think that upon entering office, the POTUS is handed the official United States Magic Wand of Freedom and a bag of Liberty Dust, which empower him to grant all of his supporters' wishes without regard for process or the separation of powers?

    Reality is a cruel mistress. She's not fair. She doesn't care. She has bad hair. And howling at her won't change a thing. Extremists of all stripes need to learn that.

    May 23, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. Marcus

    Conrad Shull – Supermax facilities are for that, the worst of the worst come in and DON'T get out (until they finish their term that is).
    But the problem, the real problem, is that even CIA admits that some of those guys were not terrorists nor had any connection with terrorists... before they were somehow 'captured' and sent to GITMO.
    Giving the fact that they have been there for years WITHOUT a single formal accusation against them, what are the chances that they have heard what were/are real deal terrorists had to say to them?

    May 23, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  7. markiejoe

    Congress will not allow Obama to close Gitmo. Go protest to Congress. Raise some money and put some ads on TV vilifying the Repubs in Congress.

    May 23, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  8. Sowhatnow

    I believe that was staged. Frankly I don't mind the terrorists staying in Gitmo. You don't have to appease radicals, President Obama.

    May 23, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  9. markiejoe

    She looks like Martina Navratilova.

    May 23, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  10. goblackhawks

    I hope the media treat this woman just like Joe The Plumber ... Maybe then you Obamabots will see the truth. Don't question this president .. only racist, anti-gay, anti-woman people talk bad about El Presidente ... Do Not question him .. He is so smart .. I wish we could see his college transcripts .. maybe we could see how smart he really is .. but that won't happen because the most open honest President has these records sealed by court order ... Why ??

    May 23, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  11. Marcus

    My bad, should have typed 'what those who were/are real deal terrorists'....

    May 23, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  12. Hypatia

    Hecklers to presidential speeches should be charged with felony treason regardless of their affiliation.

    May 23, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  13. Norm

    Crazy conservatives.
    They're just so angry we have a guy in the White House with a brown face.

    May 23, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  14. bankrupt1

    at least she doesn't kill people. i don't like activists that believe in using violence to get their way.

    May 23, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  15. Norm

    Educate yourselves conservataards.

    May 23, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  16. hk

    Well said Cheryl. Thanks.

    May 23, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  17. atzi

    Seemed staged. Like the IRS audits. If liberal let them voice their different opinion, if conservative they are dangerous.

    May 23, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  18. J G

    She was a staged plant.

    May 23, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. crimsoninok

    good first amendment act.. It does feel staged a bit.. Hey, even some of the libs cant stand him.. Youre right, congress is the one that basically keeps gitmo open because they have stopped any money going to his alternatives.. there is no money to transport them.. they are best kept where they are until our troops are out of there, then, drop them out of a plane and see if they can fly.

    May 23, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    @ Conrad – OK, fine. Close Guantanamo. Then, what? Set them all free? (They are there because they are a clear, real danger to Americans). So, they go to some other detention center. What would the difference be between that center and Guantanamo? Merely symbolic? If so, forget it.
    It's this kind of thinking that makes one's head spin. Obviously you don't have a solution in mind. There is no easy answer so kudos for the President for at least trying once again.

    May 23, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  21. Mike D

    these yentas really need something to do.

    May 23, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "She was a staged plant."

    You evidence please? And please accompany that with an explanation of what kind of advantage and benefit Obama would receive by having a very important speech about his foreign and national security policies, etc., interrupted by a raving loon who doesn't understand the limits of presidential power?

    May 23, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  23. Once again, Obama waves his magic wand

    Sniffit – you are sooooo right!!!

    May 23, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. Amy

    At least she is consistent..not a hypocrite like most liberals.

    May 23, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  25. dave

    Intentional set-up by the W.H.? Have a heckler heckle your talking points, just a little more radically left, so that it helps make Obama look more moderate? Tail, this is dog. Not a bad strategy though, as most wont even see it.

    May 23, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
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