Remember Tuesday, when everyone was talking about how First Lady Michelle Obama schooled that woman heckling her during a speech at a fundraiser? CNN has gotten their hands on actual footage of what happened, which until now had only been reported on from attendees and some leaked audio footage.
A watch of the video shows that the exchange has been reported accurately across the web. The heckler, Ellen Sturtz, interrupted Obama as she spoke at the home of a lesbian couple hosting a DNC fundraiser. Sturtz is a lesbian activist and member of the group GetEQUAL, who actually supplied CNN with the video. GetEQUAL hasn't apologized about the incident except to tweet a few articles about it (RTs ≠ endorsements, guys) and release a press release with their version of what happened.
The big remaining controversy over The First Lady vs. The Heckler is over the language being used to describe Obama's response to Sturtz. In interviews, Sturtz has called the First Lady "agressive" and "assertive", though she hasn't excluded herself from those generally negative adjectives, describing herself as "abrasive." She also clarified that she wasn't upset by the First Lady's response, save for being a bit "taken aback."
But NPR's Code Switch asked people what they thought about the confrontation, and got responses calling out this kind of biased language being used to describe the First Lady. Others criticized the anti-war group Code Pink (of which Sturtz is a member), which had originally backed her choice to interrupt:
Mrs. Obama should have said to LGBT protester: I don't make policy but I certainly understand your concerns. Thanks for sharing them w me.— CODEPINK (@codepink) June 5, 2013
After getting a lot of heat, Code Pink then apologized for their comments:
We appreciate all the folks who are holding us accountable for our language on twitter. Codepink has disrupted dozens of people in power— CODEPINK (@codepink) June 5, 2013
We apologise for our poor choice of language & we promise to be aware & thoughtful in the future— CODEPINK (@codepink) June 5, 2013
This twitter exchange has launched a critical discussion we aim to be part of, on the responsibility & intersections between issues of race,— CODEPINK (@codepink) June 5, 2013
class, gender & sexuality, etc and how we can be a more positive contribution to fighting for justice on all fronts #pt— CODEPINK (@codepink) June 5, 2013
The whole problem with the goals of GetEQUAL and with Sturtz is not that they interrupted the First Lady, it's that they didn't get what they wanted, which was for President Obama to address signing an LGBT non-discrimination executive order. The whole story is now about the First Lady and how she's handled the situation, not about the Obama administration's stance and activism on gay rights, which has been, until recently, mixed. We're still talking about how Michelle handled the whole thing, and about whether she's an angry black woman. We're still talking about how her tone of voice differs from her husband's during an exchange with a heckler just a few weeks ago. In CNN's words, Obama had "a softer touch, maybe, than Michelle's tough talk."
The best response to this entire affair might be from the White House press secretary Jay Carney, who said of the First Lady, "It's my personal opinion that she handled it brilliantly," sealing that declaration with the perfect combination of a smile/not smile.