As President Obama reminded us last week, even those holding the nation’s highest office can be subject to the unsolicited musings of hecklers. On Wednesday Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina dealt with a situation of his own while giving a speech on foreign policy at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C.
Senator Graham kicked off the Atlantic Council’s series of foreign policy talks, during which they hope to host all presidential candidates. In his speech, Graham touched on a wide range of issues, from the instability in the Middle East to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and even to illegal immigration. Graham called for a minimum of 10,000 troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan to stabilize the region, and also emphasized the need to defeat ISIS, which he described as waging “a war against humanity.”
During a Q&A with CNN’s Jake Tapper that followed his remarks, a woman who had been heckling during earlier questions was called on by Tapper to ask Graham a question. The woman turned out to be Medea Benjamin, founder of the liberal social justice activist group CODEPINK, which is perhaps best known for dressing up as giant vaginas at the 2012 Republican National Convention in a vulgar display that somehow supported womens’ rights. Benjamin took the opportunity to hijack the Q&A and instead went on a rant decrying Graham’s foreign policy ideas.
“I am horrified by your foreign policy,” she exclaimed, once she took hold of the microphone. After claiming she felt more threatened by Saudi Arabia than Iran, she asked, “what about Saudi Arabia crushing the Arab Spring in Bahrain? What about the Saudi killing of thousands in Yemen now?”
Her questions quickly morphed into a full-on tirade against Israel, saying, “if you want to talk about repression, we need to talk about Israel’s repression of the Palestinians, which happens on an every single day basis.” She continued, nothing that today marks the one year anniversary of the “invasion of Gaza” and asking the Senator: “Will you say something about the 200,000 people killed in Gaza by the Israelis, including 551 children?”
Tapper, who was moderating the Q&A with Senator Graham, quickly realized that Medea wasn’t simply going to ask the senator about foreign policy. Sounding like an exasperated babysitter, he tried to refocus her attention as employees at the Atlantic Council attempted to seize her microphone.
Their efforts were unsuccessful, however, as she evaded them and continued her diatribe over audible boos from the audience. She demanded, “Does Israel have nuclear weapons? How many do they have?”
Finally, a young man wrested the microphone away from her and Graham had a chance to respond. Graham joked, “I’ll put her down as undecided,” and recognized that her right to disagree with him is one of the virtues of the American democracy.
He followed up more seriously, however, saying, “I think people like you make the world incredibly dangerous. I think people like you are radical Islam’s best hope.”