The White House expressed disapproval Friday of photographs showing gay-rights activists, guests of President Obama, making obscene gestures at the portrait of President Reagan during a gay-pride reception at the White House last week.
“While the White House does not control the conduct of guests at receptions, we certainly expect that all attendees conduct themselves in a respectful manner,” said White House spokesman Shin Inouye. “Most all do. These individuals clearly did not. Behavior like this doesn’t belong anywhere, least of all in the White House.”
Matthew “Matty” Hart and Zoe Strauss, both from the Philadelphia area, posted photographs of themselves on Facebook giving the middle finger to Mr. Reagan’s official portrait hanging in the White House as they attended the party.
A leader of the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative gay-rights group, criticized the activists for insulting Mr. Reagan.
“It is unfortunate that the image conservative America is seeing today of LGBT people is of gay leftists misbehaving at the White House, rather than the millions of patriotic, decent LGBT citizens, many of whom, like Log Cabin Republicans, hold President Ronald Reagan in high esteem,” Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the group, said in a statement.
“These photographs have hurt our community and make advocating for inclusion and equality more difficult. The participants should be ashamed,” he said.
At the reception, Mr. Obama told the attendees that the day is approaching when gay citizens will enjoy full equality in America.
“We’ll get there because of every man and woman and activist and ally who is moving us forward by the force of their moral arguments, but more importantly, by the force of their example,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Hart didn’t return a call seeking comment, but he told Philadelphia magazine that he despises Mr. Reagan’s legacy.
“Yeah, f—- Reagan,” Mr. Hart said. “Ronald Reagan has blood on his hands. The man was in the White House as AIDS exploded, and he was happy to see plenty of gay men and queer people die. He was a murderous fool, and I have no problem saying so. Don’t invite me back. I don’t care.”
Mr. Hart is national director of public engagement at Solutions for Progress, which receives public and private funds to help “individuals and families working to overcome poverty and to build long-term financial stability,” according to its website. Ms. Strauss is a photographer.
Prior to his current job, Mr. Hart founded a community theater aimed at promoting social justice through puppetry.
Former Rep. John LeBoutillier, an author, wrote in 2003 that Mr. Reagan was a “tolerant and kind man” and denied accounts that Mr. Reagan was intolerant of gays.
“Ronald Reagan was never anti-gay,” Mr. LeBoutillier wrote in a column. “He and Nancy, as longtime Hollywood insiders, knew many gays and never did or said anything that could be construed as even mildly anti-gay. As governor of California, Ronald Reagan was ‘progressive’ toward the gay movement.”
Also during the White House party where some people flipped the bird at Mr. Reagan’s portrait, a transgendered man dropped down on one knee and proposed to his partner. The festivities occurred about two months after Mr. Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage.