WEST HOLLYWOOD — When you schedule a political fundraiser at the House of Blues music venue, you probably assume the crowd will be a bit feistier than, say, at a genteel private residence or an upscale restaurant.
That cut both ways for President Obama on Monday evening.
The president arrived at the music hall to raise money for his reelection campaign as part of a three-day West Coast swing.
The idea was to capitalize on the enthusiasm and energy of the mostly youngish crowd of nearly 900 donors, who had paid between $250 to $10,000 to secure a ticket and, in some cases, a photo with the president.
The rapper B.O.B. warmed up the crowd with a version of his hit song “Nothing on You,” and Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson presided as master of ceremonies, lauding the president in his introduction.
But Obama got a rude welcome shortly after he took the stage when a bearded man standing in the front row near the stage began heckling him.
“Christian God is the one and only true living God, the creator of Heaven and the Universe,” he shouted, as the crowd began booing loudly to try to drown him out.
Obama stopped speaking and smiled uncomfortably at him as the man continued shouting: “I love Jesus. Jesus Christ is God. Jesus Christ is the son of God.”
Eventually, the Secret Service plunged into the crowd and dragged the man toward the exit. “Jesus Christ is God; Barack Obama is the antichrist!” he shouted.
The crowd chanted “four more years!”
When the commotion was over, Obama said: “All right, where was I? It is good to be back in LA.”
From that point on, the crowd was still rowdier than usual for a presidential fundraiser but respectfully so, calling out in support of many of the president’s remarks.
When Obama said he has been fighting since taking office so that “everyone gets a fair shake and everyone does their fair share,” someone in the crowd yelled: “Thank you, Obama!”
When the president explained that spending cuts, without creating new revenues, would not solve the country’s job woes, an audience member shouted: “Tax the rich!”
And when Obama told the crowd that America has been through tougher times than the current economic malaise, a man offered a note of encouragement: “You stay strong!”
But perhaps the most memorable moment involving the crowd, aside from the heckler, came when Obama talked about the success of his health care reform bill. More than 1 million young people now have health insurance, the president said.
“The health care reform act is working and it’s working because you guys helped it pass Congress,” Obama said.
“Don’t forget medical marijuana,” a man yelled.
“Thank you for that,” Obama said, as the crowd chuckled.