Washington – White House correspondents and television viewers across the nation were left in a state of disbelief as a reporter turned heckler interrupted President Barack Obama more than once during his address Friday afternoon.
Neil Munro, a reporter from The Daily Caller, a conservative news web site, repeatedly interrupted the President’s speech on his new immigration policy in the White House Rose Garden.
India America Today editor Tejinder Singh and junior journalist Ankit Jain not only experienced the incident first hand, but also encountered Munro prior to his outburst.
Upon arriving, Munro approached Jain and stood next to him, saying, “Thanks for sharing the shade,” to which Jain replied, “No problem.”
Observing Munro’s behavior, Jain noted, “He (Munro) was on his laptop (a Macbook) for most of the time while we were waiting, holding it at a weird angle so that it was almost upside down. He was typing on it pretty quickly.”
Munro, who was continuously talking to reporter Fred Lucas of conservative news website CNSNews.com, commented, “Obama’s going to lose,” adding, “All these world leaders know it and so they’re taking advantage of it. Putin is much more strong-willed than Obama.”
He continued to give his opinion on world affairs, with a comment regarding Syria, that “Putin should get in one of his Russian attack helicopters.” He then spoke about the G8 Summit, the annual meeting of leaders of the world’s largest economies, saying, “They’re holding all these summits to make him look more powerful. They’ve held more summits this year than last year — count them. And they don’t work. They haven’t accomplished anything. They still haven’t convinced Angela Merkel to change her policies.”
Munro, appearing irritated and upset, also discussed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney several times.
After the incident, when asked about the heckler, Lucas claimed, “Ask him, I don’t know.”
President Obama was five minutes into his speech when Munro first interrupted, to which the President, visibly irritated, responded with a raised finger, saying, “Excuse me, sir, but it’s not time for questions!” He continued, “Not while I’m speaking.”
A few minutes later, Munro began to shout again, to which Obama responded angrily, “And the answer to your question, sir – and the next time I’d prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question – is this is the right thing to do for the American people.”
Once again Munro attempted to talk on top of Obama, to which the President curtly responded, “I didn’t ask for an argument, I’m answering your question.”
Media reports have quoted Munro, who wore a press badge issued for temporary visitors instead of a White House correspondents badge, as claiming he had “no intention” of interrupting the president and that he was trying to time his question to come at the end of Obama’s remarks.
Occasionally reporters shout questions at presidents after they have finished an address and have turned to walk away from the podium. However, in sharp contrast to the regular White House correspondents flanking him, Munro’s breach of decorum was disrespectful and unprofessional.
The White House on Friday reacted in an email to India America Today, stating “The incident won’t diminish the President’s commitment to pursuing immigration policies that reflect our values, our laws and our history as a nation of immigrants.” (IATNS)