A member of an LGBT advocacy group heckled First Lady Michelle Obama at a private fundraising event Tuesday night, leading to a brief confrontation between the two.
The Washington Post reported that Obama was speaking at a Democratic Party event at a private residence when 56-year-old Ellen Sturtz, later identified as a member of GetEqual, interrupted her speech to demand that President Barack Obama sign an executive order forbidding federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The first lady allegedly addressed Sturtz directly, telling her, “One of the things that I don’t do well is this. Do you understand?” before walking toward her and saying, “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.”
Sturtz told the Post Obama was “flustered” when she replied that she would be happy to take the microphone, saying that the executive order would protect 22 percent of U.S. workers.
“She came right down in my face,” Sturtz said to the Post about the encounter with the first lady. “I was taken aback.”
Sturtz was escorted out of the event shortly afterward, but loudly identified herself as a “lesbian looking for federal equality before I die” on the way out.
GetEqual’s co-director, Heather Cronk, told Buzzfeed Tuesday night that the group planned the incident beforehand. In a release, the group said three other members were present at the fundraiser, which cost between $500 and $1,000 to attend.
But Sturtz, who donated $5,000 to the president’s 2008 election campaign, also said to the Huffington Post that she did not go to the event planning to heckle the first lady, instead intending to speak to Democratic National Committee officials about her worries regarding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
“Basically, I was asked by the first lady to be quiet, and I can’t be quiet any longer,” Sturtz told the Huffington Post. “I was surprised by how negative the crowd seemed to be. It was actually a little unsettling and disturbing.”
Update, 9:25 a.m. EST: Buzzfeed posted audio of the encounter between Obama and Sturtz, which captures the first lady’s saying, “One of the things that I don’t do well is this,” but not the exchange between the two. The clip can be heard below.
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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