Opportunities to question the president are not that frequent. At this point in his presidency, Obama has had 72 total press conferences, including 31 by himself (without, for example, another world leader present), according to statistics compiled by Martha Joynt Kumar, a presidency scholar at Towson University. At a comparable point in his presidency, George W. Bush had had 79 total press conferences, 14 of those solo, said Kumar, who works out of the media workspace in the West Wing.
At the end of March, Obama had held 98 short question and answer sessions, typically one or two queries from assembled reporters. During the same time period, George W. Bush had undergone 317, Bill Clinton 516, George H. W. Bush 281 and Ronald Reagan 120, the political scientist said.
Obama prefers interviews: At the end of March, he had conducted 441. At similar points in their presidencies, George W. Bush had sat for 144, Clinton 178, George H. W. Bush 222, and Reagan 185.
Reporters don't blink when hecklers interrupt the president at campaign events, which tend to be rowdier, or cut him off in a debate setting, when the moderator's job is often to impose discipline. And press conference exchanges can get testy. Formal events, though, traditionally invite more decorum.
But Friday was not the first time that a president has weathered an unsolicited contribution to formal remarks. A Falun Gong activist infiltrated an April 20, 2006 White House welcoming ceremony for Chinese President Hu Jintao and heckled him, leaving White House aides red-faced. And Republican Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina made headlines in September 2009 when he shouted "you lie!" at Obama as the president addressed a joint session of Congress. Wilson later apologized. George W. Bush suffered perhaps the most dramatic indignity when, in December 2008, a journalist in Baghdad hurled his shoes at the president.