President Obama’s first major speech on counterterrorism since winning re-election in November didn’t go quite as planned – thanks to a heckler from the women-initiated social justice group Code Pink.
Medea Benjamin, an anti-war activist, interrupted the president’s speech from the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Thursday shortly after he began discussing the proposed closure of the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Benjamin was trying to draw attention to the 102 prisoners engaged in a hunger strike at the base after military authorities decided to end the practice of communal housing at the detention facility in April as the audience began to applaud.
“You are commander-in-chief,” Benjamin exclaimed. “You can close Guantanamo today, you can release those 186 prisoners currently detained by your government today.”
Obama had pledged during his 2008 campaign to close the base, stating in his speech that it is was a “facility that should have never been opened.” He also stated that there was no “justification beyond politics” for Congress to prevent him from closing the facility.
The president later went off-teleprompter to discuss the tête-à-tête between himself and Benjamin after she was removed from the auditorium, adding that they both agree on the closure of Guantanamo Bay.
“The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to,” he told the crowd. “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.”
Watch footage of Obama being heckled by Benjamin below.