The president's behavior in recent months was "morally wrong" and "racist," the former first lady said Tuesday

By Sean Neumann
October 06, 2020 07:33 AM

Michelle Obama on Tuesday morning delivered what the Joe Biden campaign called the former first lady's "closing argument" for him over Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

“Our country is in chaos because of a president who isn’t up to the job," Obama, 56, said in a 24-minute pre-taped speech, describing Biden as the salve to Trump's failures.

“Vote for Joe Biden like your lives depend on it,” the former first lady said, urging voters to back Biden, 77, whom she vowed would lead with “competence and maturity, instead of chaos and confusion.”

"The election is right around the corner," she said. "Votes are already being cast. Americans have stepped up to answer the call. It's not too much to ask our leaders to rise to the occasion as well."

It is not the first time Obama has vocally supported Biden, who served eight years as vice president alongside her husband, President Barack Obama.

In her August primetime speech at the Democratic National Convention, Mrs. Obama slammed Trump as an unqualified leader, telling voters: "We know that what’s going on in this country is just not right."

“Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can: Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country," Mrs. Obama said then. "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."

(Responding to her DNC speech in August, Trump tweeted: "Thanks for your very kind words Michelle!" He said her husband's job performance was the reason he got elected.)

Obama echoed those sentiments again in Tuesday's speech.

Trump's behavior in recent months was "morally wrong" and "racist," she said, noting his resistance to supporting public health guidelines and his inflammatory rhetoric on issues of racism and injustice.

"Racism, fear, division — these are powerful weapons," Mrs. Obama said, "They can destroy this nation if we don't deal with them head on."

The Biden campaign stressed this week that while the former first lady is on record about her dislike of politics, "like so many Americans, she has been experiencing the chaos of 2020," an official said.

Mrs. Obama laid that out in Tuesday's speech, aligning herself with worried parents across the country who she argued have had to deal with Trump offering "little or no support" for schools and teachers working to safely reopen classrooms amid the pandemic.

"We simply cannot trust this president to tell us the truth about anything," she said.

Her speech comes at a historically unusual moment in the presidential campaign, weeks before the Nov. 3 election.

Trump returned to the White House on Monday night after being hospitalized with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) since Friday night at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

While his doctors said Monday afternoon that his prognosis had improved enough for him to receive treatment at home, they conceded he wasn't "entirely out of the woods."

They refused to answer some basic questions about Trump's illness and treatment, such as when he last tested negative and if he has shown lung damage or pneumonia. He previously had a fever and experienced drops in his oxygen level.

"The drama of the past few days has only emphasized what’s at stake in this election," Mrs. Obama tweeted Tuesday, saying she considered not publishing the speech given the president's illness.

"But I wanted you all to hear what’s been on my mind," she said.

In the wake of the president's hospitalization, the Biden campaign also paused its negative advertising against Trump.

But the former vice president's tone sharpened once against as Trump returned to the White House on Monday, removing his mask while around other people even though he is infectious and tweeted that others should not be "afraid" of the virus that has killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S.

"I feel better than I did 20 years ago!" tweeted Trump, whose office afforded him leading medical care, including experimental treatment that most of the 7.4 million Americans infected by COVID-19 could not access.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama
| Credit: Michelle Obama

Earlier this year, Trump acknowledged to a reporter that he chose to downplay the threat of the illness to avoid causing a "panic," while critics say his response has been too slow and too clumsy, costing lives.

He has drawn particular backlash for his reluctance to advocate mask-wearing, which government health experts say is a key preventative measure in spreading the virus. Days before announcing he was sick, Trump mocked Biden for wearing a mask.

A study by Cornell University found last week that 38 percent of COVID-19 misinformation has come directly from the president, making Trump "quite likely" the leading cause of misinformation about the pandemic, the Ivy League researchers said. (White House spokesman Judd Deere pushed back, saying the study "could not be further from the truth.")

Mrs. Obama, a best-selling author and voting rights activist since leaving the White House, has been delivering withering assessments of Trump's leadership throughout the final months of the 2020 election — building up her case against the president through her headlining DNC speech, as well as recent interviews with Conan O'Brien and Rachael Ray.

The Becoming author has also advocated for Americans to go out and vote this election season through her nonprofit organization, When We All Vote, and on her new podcast.

"I know what it takes to be the president," the former first lady told O'Brien last month. "I've seen it in ways that some of the best minds haven't. I know what kind of person is required and what the skill-set needs to be and this president doesn't have it. He doesn't have what is required to lead a nation, and we are living with that."