Michelle Obama Hasn’t Forgiven Trump For Spreading Racist Birther Lies

Michelle Obama can't forgive Donald Trump for his role in spreading the racist birther conspiracy. I can't say I blame her.

Writing in her new book, former First Lady Michelle Obama says she will never forgive President Trump for his role in spreading the birther lies about her husband:

Former first lady Michelle Obama writes in her forthcoming memoir that President Donald Trump’s promotion of the so-called birther movement is something she will “never forgive him for,” according to excerpts obtained by The Washington Post and other outlets, detailing the threats she said her family felt as a result of Trump’s amplification of the conspiracy theory.

Trump pushed the unfounded theory beginning around 2011 that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, rather than in Hawaii, and was therefore ineligible to be president. The accusations gained steam among some on the right with the help of Trump’s Twitter feed, culminating in repeated calls for Obama to release his birth certificate and his college admissions records. Trump at one point claimed to have seen the president’s birth certificate himself, which he said would back up his claims, although he never released the proof he claimed to have.

The issue fizzled out near the end of Trump’s run for president in 2016, when he held a press conference to announce that he did, in fact, believe that Obama was born in the U.S., but declined to take responsibility for promoting the conspiracy or apologize to Obama for spreading the false claim, seen by many as racist.

Trump has also spread the false claim that the Obamas are Muslims, a statement that has also been identified by many as a racist dog whistle.

Though then-President Obama poked fun at the conspiracy occasionally, Michelle Obama writes in her book that she worried Trump’s claims would incite violence against her husband and her family.

“The whole thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks,” she says in the book.

“What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”

The first lady’s comments in her memoir mark a break from her typical rhetoric, which has largely steered away from criticizing the president by name even as she has continued to voice her condemnation for Trump’s policies and bombast.

One can hardly blame Mrs. Obama for feeling this way. Trump’s months-long dive into the depths of the insane birther conspiracy theory, which didn’t end until the White House released a certified copy of the President’s birth certificate in April 2011, garnered far more media attention at the time than it probably deserved and, in the end, was obviously part of an effort on Trump’s part to both test the political waters for a future run at the Presidency and to garner free publicity for his television show Celebrity Apprentice, which had been falling in the ratings for its past previous seasons, but it was also obviously based in racism, xenophobia, and the idea that had spread among many conservatives from the time that her husband had entered the race for the White House that he was not a “real” American. Among some circles, the conspiracy theory even extended to the allegation that the President, who was known to be someone who smoked cigarettes and enjoyed the occasional adult beverage, was a “secret Muslim,” and that his father was actually someone other than Barack Obama, Sr.

President Obama, of course, got his revenge against Trump when he roasted Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents Association Dinner, an event that was all the more notable given the fact that it was taking place at the same time that SEAL Team Six, on the President’s orders, was preparing for a mission that would lead to the death of Osama bin Laden.

For his part, President Trump pushed back at Michelle Obama with a bizarre, fact-free rant against the former President:

President Donald Trump pushed back at former first lady Michelle Obama and former President Barack Obama over a forthcoming memoir in which the former first lady said she would “never forgive” Trump for his role in the “birther” movement.

“She got paid a lot of money to write a book and they always expect a little controversy,” Trump said.

“I’ll give you a little controversy back, I’ll never forgive (President Barack Obama) for what he did to our US military. It was depleted, and I had to fix it,” Trump said. “What he did to our military made this country very unsafe for you and you and you.”

This is, of course, utter nonsense. While there were some cutbacks in defense spending under President Obama due to the end of the Iraq War, the defense budget increased each year that Barack Obama was President and President Obama, along with the men who served underneath him as Secretary of Defense, including Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, and Ash Carter, did a tremendous job of rebuilding those parts of the military that had become depleted and exhausted due to a period of war that began in October 2001 and which has yet to come to an end. In any case, the fact that Trump did not directly address the birther issue is consistent with the way he has acted since becoming a candidate for President in June 2015. Asked on several occasions since then whether he still believed that President Obama was not born in the United States, Trump refused to directly answer the question and instead said that the issue was in the past. Trump may not want to talk about it, but Michelle Obama obviously does and I’m sure we’ll hear more about it from her while she’s on her book tour. Additionally, it will be interesting to see what former President Obama has to say about it when his own memoir comes out.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ben Wolf says:

    Has she forgiven her husband for keeping a murder list in his desk? I imagine it must have caused tension in their marriage.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    The problem is not Trump per se, it’s what Trump has revealed about the American people. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that a very substantial number of Americans are racists. He proved that a disturbingly large number of men are misogynists. And he certainly did a swell job of exposing white evangelical Christians as contemptible hypocrites.

    It’s never been Trump that worried me – he’s a stupid psychopath and well within our capacity to digest and excrete as a nation. But what do we do about the ~third of Americans who are so nasty or so stupid or so selfish that they bought into this disgusting man?

    Every day Trump speaks and the message is: I know what scum you are. I know your inner racist. I know your weakness. And I know you’ll allow me to use and exploit you because you have no core, no integrity, no honor.

  3. Funny that Hillary Clinton is not mentioned, since it was people associated with her campaign that started it.

  4. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Indeed! The problem is not that Trump is a stupid psychopath, but rather how many other stupid psychopaths who think and react exactly as he does there are in the country.

  5. MattBernius says:

    @William Teach: gotta say that beyond the underlying facts, my favorite chicken shit excuse for talk radio conservatives enagaing in a false, racist atteack is “But, Hillary Clinton made it ok!”

    Is that an endorsement of everything else Hillary Clinton believes? Because, last I checked, people like you think she’s wrong about almost everything.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @MattBernius: Don’t you know that Snope’s is a liberal deep state fake news site? It relies on these things called facts. You can never trust it.

    While on the subject of racist conspiracy theories though, have we ever seen Donald Trump and David Duke together? No? Well then I think that’s evidence that Donald Trump really is David Duke wearing an oddly colored fat suit.

  7. dmichael says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I have to say that this is the most succinct, colorful and apt description of our current political climate. Thanks!

  8. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Ben Wolf: Ahh yes…. because it would have been far easier and more prudent to send a few black and whites to arrest sh#thead jihadis in pakistan, yemen, afghanistan, etc actively planning to carry out attacks in the europe and america. Obama should have just asked you and saved his conscience.

    You’re an idiot

  9. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt TO WHITE AMERICA that….”

    I added a 3-word qualifier to make it truth enough to warrant an AMEN

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I tend to disagree. Actually more a change of emphasis than a disagreement. Yes, Trump is more a symptom than the disease. And yes, the electorate leave a lot to be desired. However, the electorate of (pick a past decade) was just as dumb and probably more racist. Some PoliSci type said the dirty secret of PoliSci, that no one likes to mention, is that the electorate is a box of rocks. In all times and all places, a box of rocks. So what’s changed? We depend on leaders to lead and elites to be opinion setters. Our system demands two, and only two, major parties, and one of them has become totally corrupt. Why now and not before? Because we have allowed an unprecedented flood of money into the system. The Republican Party is owned by the Kochs, Mercers, Adelsons, Freiss, etc. They’re happy to be owned, and they will commit any outrage for their owners.

    It’s not Trump, and it’s not the electorate, it’s a corrupt Republican Party, and the people who corrupted them.

  11. al Ameda says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The problem is not Trump per se, it’s what Trump has revealed about the American people.

    There is no such thing as ‘Wisdom of The People.’ It’s certainly not a permanent or an enduring characteristic of the American People. Sometimes We The People have wisdom, sometimes we don’t.

  12. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @gVOR08: Lets not act like the owners of the Democratic party have interests that are aligned with regular americans The dirtier secret is that we have two political parties groveling at the troughs of major donors. This is a big part of the reason democrats can barely win office as dog catcher in rural areas. Coastal elites, now have as soft spot to toss blacks, other disadvantaged minorities , and single women a bone—but they have no use for rural whites and particular rural white men. The only reason Republicans have them is because the Democrats abandoned them. Even the reliable suburban Republicans I know cant stand rural whites…they know they need their votes to win elections though so they tolerate being associated with them

  13. gVOR08 says:

    Clinton and the Dems of the time went neoliberal because they needed big money donations to compete. They are discovering they can go a long way on small donations and that there are still big money people who are either repelled by the Party of Trump or have a clearer vision of government. But yes, they’re also beholden to big money.

    But, as with most bothsides, there’s an order of magnitude or two difference between this and the R’s reliance on Koch, et al, including Adelson, who’s wife is about to get a Medal of Freedom from Trumpsky for supporting Likkud First. The Kochs, well apparently now just Charles, want to impose a weird libertarian autocratic paradise on the country. As far as I’m aware Tom Steyer is good with democracy and Soros has spent a fortune promoting democracy around the world.

    Lesser of two evils.

  14. Ben Wolf says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Faheem Qureshi’s uncles sat with their neighbors, chatting, cracking jokes and sipping tea, in their family’s lounge for male guests. Qureshi, almost 14, stood nearby, bored and restless, thinking about when he could go to the nearby playground where he and the other Ziraki village kids played badminton and cricket.
    Drones may predate Obama, but his resolute use of them is unmatched
    Read more

    It had been a long day – Friday prayers, a food shopping errand at his mother’s behest, hosting – but also a happy occasion, as people stopped by to welcome an uncle home to North Waziristan, in tribal Pakistan, from a work excursion to the United Arab Emirates. Then he heard a sound like a plane taking off.

    About two seconds later, the missile punched a hole through the lounge. Qureshi remembers feeling like his body was on fire. He ran outside, wanting to throw water on his face, but his priority was escape. The boy could not see.

    This was the hidden civilian damage from the first drone strike Barack Obama ever ordered, on 23 January 2009, the inauguration of a counter-terrorism tactic likely to define Obama’s presidency in much of the Muslim world. It was the third day of his presidency.

    Reportedly, the strikes did not hit the Taliban target Obama and the Central Intelligence Agency sought. Instead, they changed Qureshi’s life irrevocably.

    It took nearly 40 days for Qureshi to emerge from a series of hospitals, all of which he spent in darkness. Shrapnel had punctured his stomach. Lacerations covered much of his upper body. Doctors operated on the entire left side of his body, which had sustained burns, and used laser surgery to repair his right eye. They could not save his left.

    His family kept the worst from him while he recuperated. Two of Qureshi’s uncles, Mohammed Khalil and Mansoor Rehman, were dead. So was his 21-year-old cousin Aizazur Rehman Qureshi, who was preparing to leave the family’s North Waziristan home for work, also in the UAE. Fourteen of Qureshi’s cousins were left fatherless.

    Barely a teenager, Qureshi was suddenly an elder male within his family, tasked with providing for his mother, brothers and sisters. Once a promising student who wanted a career in chemistry, his priority would become scrounging a living. The family never had the money to repair the guest lounge.

    But blacknwhitesliberalblahblah.