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University of Fla. Student Allegedly Denied Entry Into Michelle Obama Event for Wearing John McCain T-Shirt


"...this is an event with only Obama supporters."

First lady Michelle Obama applauds with the crowd as she addresses a rally at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., Monday, Sept. 17, 2012.Credit: AP

A student was allegedly denied entry into a campaign event featuring first lady Michelle Obama at the University of Florida on Wednesday because he was wearing 2007 John McCain campaign T-shirt.

The student, identified as Matt Pesek by Campus Reform, said he purchased a ticket for the event but was pulled aside and questioned by an official with the Obama campaign who told him the speech was only for "Obama supporters."

"I was waiting in line wearing a 'Gators for McCain' shirt when a guy [representing the Obama campaign] comes up to me to just intimidate me," Pesek told Campus Reform. "[He then] asks me for my ticket saying… this is an event with only Obama supporters."

However, Pesek cites an email sent to the UF student body from the student government:

"The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for entrance," the email states. "To pick up your ticket, you can visit one of the following locations beginning Friday, September 14th, at 10 AM."

Notice how the email does not bar non-Obama supporters from attending the rally.

Pesek said he genuinely wanted to see Michelle Obama speak, so he told the staffer that he was not planning on causing a disturbance and even offered to turn his shirt inside out so he wouldn't offend anyone.

"I just kept explaining that I just want to see Obama," the student said. "[I] said I would even applaud for her."

This is when Pesek says Jen Day Shaw, the dean of students at the university, arrived and told him that the Obama officials have the right to "refuse entry to whomever they want" because it was a "private event."

The Leadership Institute's Campus Reform has more details:

A university spokesman seemed to corroborate part of [Pesek’s]  story on Tuesday confirming the Obama campaign was given complete control of the event and the crowd.

“The event was a ticketed, non-university function run by the Obama campaign,” University spokeswoman Janine Sikes added in a brief statement to Campus Reform.

Sikes stressed that “any UF officials attending the event attended on their own time” and denied that university officials or resources had been deployed towards the event. However, Pesek disagrees.

Pesek says it was the university that advertised the event to students. "I didn’t hear about the rally from the Obama campaign. I heard about it from people at the university," he added.

The Obama campaign did not return Campus Reform's calls or emails regarding the incident.

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