Speaking at an event hosted by a prominent gay advocacy group, President Obama on Saturday night chastised the his GOP presidential rivals for failing to speak up when some members of the audience at a debate last month booed a gay soldier.

“We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s okay for a stage full of political leaders -- one of whom could end up being the President of the United States -- being silent when an American soldier is booed,” Obama said at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual dinner in Washington. “We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since. You want to be Commander-in-Chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.”

Obama was referring to an incident that took place at a Sept. 22 Republican debate in Tampa, Fla., hosted by Fox News Channel and Google.

Just days after the official end of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned gays from serving openly, a gay soldier who had been deployed to Iraq drew boos from some in the audience when he asked the GOP candidates if they intend to “circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military.”

2012 candidate and former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) answered that if elected, he would reinstate DADT.

Watch the exchange below:

Businessman and GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that it would have been “appropriate” for him to have defended the soldier at the debate.

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