Donald Trump hits back at Michelle Obama, calling her convention speech ‘extremely divisive’
Michelle Obama speaking during the opening night of the Democratic convention – AFP via Getty Images
Donald Trump has lashed out at Michelle Obama after she criticised him in her Democratic convention speech, accusing the former first lady of pushing an “extremely divisive” message .
The US president criticised the wife of his predecessor for pre-recording her address after she had said that he was “clearly in over his head” in the White House in an address that dominated TV news headlines.
While Mr Trump continually criticises Barack Obama, the former US president, he has only rarely rebuked his wife Mrs Obama since taking office in January 2017.
The trigger was Mrs Obama herself launching a fierce attack on Mr Trump, including singling him out as the “the wrong president for our country”. She has rarely issued public criticism of him in the last three and a half years.
Asked to respond to the speech, Mr Trump said: “She was over her head and frankly she should have made the speech live which she didn’t do, she taped it.
“And it was not only taped, it was taped a long time ago because she had the wrong deaths, she didn’t even mention the vice presidential candidate in the speech.
“And you know, she gets these fawning reviews. If you gave a real review it wouldn’t be so fawning. I thought it was a very divisive speech, extremely divisive.”
Mr Trump’s death reference was to the number of people in America killed from Covid-19. Mrs Obama said it was “more than 150,000 people”. Today that figure is above 170,000.
She also did not mention Kamala Harris, Mr Biden’s vice presidential pick, because, according to Democratic officials, she recorded the speech before the choice was made.
The clash escalated a feud between Mr Trump and the Obamas which dates back more than half a decade, when the former pushed the ‘birther’ conspiracy suggesting Mr Obama was born outside America and so should not have been president.
Mrs Obama’s intervention came on the opening night of the Democratic Party’s convention which, due to coronavirus, has moved from an in-person gathering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to an almost entirely online only event.
Across two hours of evening broadcasting there were political speeches without the usual cheering crowds intercut with segments to camera from everyday Americans and celebrity appearances. Eva Longoria, the Desperate Housewives, hosted the programme.
The night, themed around “we the people”, saw calls from Bernie Sanders, the left-wing Vermont senator, for his supporters to back Mr Biden and an appearance from John Kasich, the former Republican presidential nominee, criticising Mr Trump.
But it was Mrs Obama, given the highly prized closing speech slot, who broke with her usual stance of avoiding criticising her husband’s successor in public by launching an excoriating critique of the Trump presidency, including singling him out by name.
“So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” Mrs Obama said.
“He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”
At another point she said: “Whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division, and a total and utter lack of empathy.”
Mrs Obama said, in another clear reference to Mr Trump, that America’s children “see our leaders labelling fellow citizens enemies of the state while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists”.
The former first lady, who was wearing a necklace with the word “vote” on it, urged viewers to register for mail-in ballots that evening – a sign of mounting fears that Mr Trump’s Postal Service reforms could slow voting by mail for November’s election.
She also praised Mr Biden, who was US vice president under her husband for eight years, saying: “If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.”
On Tuesday night Bill Clinton, the former US president, and Jill Biden, the wife of Mr Biden, were due to speak. Mr Biden will give his address closing the convention on Thursday.