Frustrated Obama Goes Toe-to-Toe With Woman Interrupting Counterterrorism Speech: ‘Why Don’t You Sit Down…?’

President Barack Obama reacts to a woman yelling at him from the back of the auditorium as he talks about national security, Thursday, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington. Credit: AP

President Obama was interrupted on multiple occasions by a female audience member during his afternoon counterrorism speech at the National Defense University.

“Let me finish, ma’am,” Obama said after the woman — now identified as the co-founder of the group CODEPINK, Medea Benjamin — first interrupted, clenching his mouth and raising a finger. He then tried to laugh it off and move on, but Benjamin continued, prompting a more stern response.

“I’m about to address it ma’am,” he said, pointing out at her, “but you got to let me speak. I’m about to address it.”

Benjamin continued. So did he: “Let me address it.”

She didn’t stop.

“Why don’t you let me address it, ma’am?”

“Why don’t you sit down and I will tell you exactly what I’m going to do?” a visibly frustrated Obama then said.

“Thank you ma’am, thank you,” he added as the audience clapped. “Thank you. Ma’am. Thank you. You should let me finish my sentence.”

That seemed to satisfy Benjamin for a bit, but soon after she continued, screaming out on at least three separate occasions, angry over Obama’s use of drones and that the prison at Guantanamo Bay remained open. She also demanded the release of Shaker Aamer “a Saudi Arabian citizen and former U.K. resident who has been held at GitMo since 2002,” Metro reports.

During the final outburst, Obama let her yell her points, standing silently and looking away.

“The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to,” he said near the end. “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.”

He then continued on with is prepared remarks.

It’s unclear why the woman was not removed after the first outburst and allowed to interrupt on multiple occasions and for such a lengthy period.

The first two interruptions are below:

The Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly captured video Benjamin being escorted out of the speech, identifying her in the video’s description:

Benjamin had retweeted earlier in the day a message from CODEPINK that said the group would be at the speech to protest:


CODEPINK proudly claimed responsibility for Benjamin after, even making her available for interviews:

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

[blackbirdpie url=”″]

This story has been updated