President Barack Obama acknowledged the concerns of protesters who interrupted his speech at a fundraiser Wednesday night and urged them to take their energy and signs to Republican events.
“Folks should be hollering at the other folks’ events, because the choice in November could not be clearer. A choice about what you want for the next two years — what you want the next two years to look like in this country,” he said at a fundraiser in New York City for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to a transcript of the event released by the White House.
Shortly after the president began speaking, a woman shouted, “President Obama, President Obama,” and two or three men held up signs that said “Broken promises” and “No retreat, fund AIDS,” according to a pool report from the event.
Obama addressed the group directly, saying: “Apparently you’re interested in funding AIDS. We’ve increased AIDS funding.”
Not long afterward, another audience member shouted, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” twice in reference to the military’s ban on openly gay service members. A procedural vote in the Senate to move to the defense authorization bill, which includes language that would repeal the ban, failed this week, 56-43.
The president used the interruptions to underscore his message that Democrats need to generate energy and enthusiasm for the upcoming Congressional midterm elections, a point that he has been making regularly.
“I want us to talk about what’s at stake in this election, because the people that potentially will take over if we don’t focus on this election, I promise you, will cuts AIDS funding — so don’t — so this is not the time or the place to do what you’re talking about,” Obama said to the group of AIDS protesters.
He later said, “Young man back there shouted, “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” As president, I have said we’re going to reverse it. … But hold on a second. Think about what happened in Congress two days ago where you got 56 Democrats voting to debate this issue, and zero Republicans. And as a consequence, some of those signs should be going up at the other folks’ events.”
Obama ended his speech by calling on the audience to mobilize voters.
“When I see all the polls, hear all the pundits, here’s what I take away from them,” he said. “The single biggest threat to our success is not the other party. It’s us. It’s complacency. It’s apathy. It’s indifference.”