The gay rights activist who heckled Michelle Obama at a fundraiser Tuesday night said that the first lady confronted her face to face at the intimate Democratic event.
“It felt like she was within a few inches – in my face,” Ellen Sturtz told ABC News after the incident.
Obama, who was speaking at an event on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, was interrupted when by Stutz, who demanded that President Obama sign an executive order barring discrimination by federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Tickets for the event went for $500, or $5,000 with participation in a photo reception with the first lady.
According to multiple attendees, when Stutz began heckling Obama, the first lady immediately left the stage and went to confront the activist.
“One of the things I don’t do well is this,” Obama said to loud applause, according to a pool report. “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.”
“I don’t think she expected me to say I would take the mic,” Sturtz said.
Sturtz, who represented the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group GetEQUAL, was one of four protesters at the fundraiser. At least one other person initially heckled the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, D-Fla., during her opening remarks.
Sturtz, who described herself as an “old, grey-haired lesbian,” said that she “didn’t feel that there was any other choice” but to interrupt Obama’s remarks.
“I’m too old to wait for it,” she said. “I don’t want to see us continue to be second-class citizens.”
Another attendee said the audience was surprised but supportive of Obama throughout the interaction.
“It got a little loud, generally,” that person said. “People were, in a way, excited that the first lady was addressing the situation in that way. People were cheering her on.”
Despite the threat, Obama did not leave the event and neither did Sturtz. The first lady returned to the podium to continue her remarks.
“She was clearly not happy, and I don’t think she had an intention to actually leave the fundraiser,” said the same fundraiser attendee. “She knew she was getting back on stage. She just wanted to be respected.”