It was clearly the last thing Michele Bachmann was expecting. At a South Carolina book signing, the Republican congresswoman (and presidential hopeful) leaned forward to catch the words of an 8-year-old boy name Elijah. "My mom is gay," he whispered to her, "and she doesn't need fixing."
Ms. Bachmann's views on homosexuality – and her opposition to same-sex marriage – are no secret, and many would like a chance to set her straight.
But, as the video of the exchange spread across the Internet, another debate started: was it right to put Elijah in that position?
The person who made the video says that Elijah's mom was too nervous to say anything herself, and that Elijah wanted to speak to Ms. Bachmann, but got "stage fright."
Apparently his mom coaxed him on, because she "knew he would regret it if he didn't."
Ms. Bachmann said nothing and just waved Elijah away, though it's not the first time that the candidate for the Republican presidential nomination has been put to the test by a young American.
Young Elijah's whispered phrase had a "gotcha-stunt" feeling to it, prompting Dan Savage, an American writer to express his uneasiness with incident on The Slog, saying that as a gay parent, he felt Elijah should have been discouraged from speaking up - even if it was entirely his own idea.
(Then there's the fact that the incident was filmed and uploaded to the Internet, reportedly by the mom.)
We want our kids to learn early to stand up for others - and certainly that means coaching them on how to follow through even when they feel nervous.
And maybe someday Elijah will watch that video and feel pride that he even got the sentence out. But it's also possible he would have preferred it was a teaching moment that stayed in the family.
Was Elijah a pawn or a champion? Was it right for his mom to coax him on? And would it have been better to keep it off the Internet?