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Politicians in the United States will frequently bring forth members of the public to bolster their arguments at speeches or rallies, or even in Congress. For instance, Donald Trump recently called up a college student to emphasize his arguments for what he qualifies as freedom of speech. Sometimes these average citizens even say a few words, generally in support of the person who called them up.

This seems like a gamble, though, since the person might turn out not to be a supporter. They might even start talking even if they weren't asked to. Has anyone ever taken advantage of this forum to criticize the politician or party who invited them?

  • I'm not sure about the appropriate tag for this. – Obie 2.0 Mar 2 at 21:47
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    Many of these events are carefully staged, even if they look spontaneous in the moment. Even when they are not staged, many politicians learned from Bush the Elder's infamous town hall debate how to deal with pointed questions from members of the public (roughly, you evade the question, answer a different question than was asked, show empathy via active listening, and so on). If a person becomes disruptive, of course, you can always have their microphone turned off or eject them from the venue. – Kevin Mar 2 at 22:17
  • @Kevin - Of course. But has anyone tried it regardless? – Obie 2.0 Mar 2 at 23:01
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Yes.

Ben Carson was invited to the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013 by President Obama. During his speech, Carson criticized the "moral decay [and] fiscal irresponsibility" of the Obama administration by indirectly comparing it to Ancient Rome. At the time, Carson was not known as a political figure, but was merely a famous pediatric neurosurgeon.

You can read and watch the whole thing here: https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/bencarsonprayerbreakfastspeech.htm

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    +1, but this shouldn't have surprised Obama. Carson didn't say much that was different at all from his 2011 America the Beautiful book. It was more of the same kind of Rome analogies, PC-gone-amok stuff. – Geobits Mar 4 at 13:50
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Yes, this is quite common during the White House Corespondents Dinner which in the past has typically invited a comedian to host the dinner while roasting various guests that are in attendance (including the President).

The most famous episode of this is probably the 2006 dinner with Stephan Colbert as host, while George W. Bush was in attendance.

A more recent example would be Michelle Wolf at the 2018 dinner, with jokes targeting various members of the Trump administration, including the President (though Trump himself was not in attendance).

  • I don't think the president is the one who picks the host for that event – Joe W Mar 5 at 2:03
  • To be more exact I am sure that it is the white house corespondents association that picks the speakers and not any politicians – Joe W Mar 5 at 2:11
  • @JoeW That's a good point, but the host/guest role here isn't that clear cut since the President is obviously the most powerful person there, and can control the event with his attendance. For example, 2019 isn't being hosted by a comedian after Trump has boycotted the event during the previous years. I interpreted the question as the president voluntarily appearing in public with a critic (since "average citizen" was mentioned), which would apply given the history of the event and the fact that the host is known ahead of time. – Teleka Mar 5 at 2:21
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    I'm not sure this is what OP is looking for, because the Correspondents' Dinner is explicitly intended to make fun of the political establishment. – Kevin Mar 5 at 2:24

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