POLITICS
06/05/2013 02:45 pm ET Updated Jun 05, 2013

Jay Carney: Michelle Obama Handled Heckler 'Brilliantly'

WASHINGTON -- White House spokesman Jay Carney gave First Lady Michelle Obama rave reviews for her Tuesday night response to a protester, saying she handled the situation "brilliantly."

"It's my personal opinion that she handled it brilliantly," Carney told reporters on Wednesday, adding that he had not asked the president what he thought.

At a private Democratic National Committee fundraiser on Tuesday, a protester with the pro-LGBT rights group GetEQUAL interrupted the first lady's speech and demanded equality for gays and lesbians.

"One of the things that I don't do well is this," Obama replied to loud applause. She left the lectern and approached the protester, inviting the woman to "listen to me, or you can take the mic, but I'm leaving. You all decide. You have one choice."

The crowd shouted that they wanted Obama to stay, and the protester was then escorted out.

The protester was GetEQUAL activist Ellen Sturtz, 56. She was calling for an executive order to bar discrimination by federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT groups have been disappointed that President Barack Obama has refused to issue such an order, while the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- which would prohibit such discrimination in hiring more broadly -- remains stuck in Congress.

Reaction to Obama's confrontation has been mixed. Conservative commentator John Podhoretz gave her kudos, tweeting, "Self-righteous, morally preening protestors need to have it stuffed back in their faces." New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, however, wrote that it was "not her finest moment."

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