When Donald Trump took his seat in the front pew at the state funeral of George H.W. Bush on Wednesday, Michelle Obama looked at Trump with raised eyebrows, shook his hand and quickly looked away after her husband, former President Barack Obama, also gave his successor a handshake.
The awkward moments appear to be the first time both Obamas have interacted with Trump since his inauguration almost two years ago.
And it is certainly the former First Lady’s first encounter with Trump since she revealed last month in her memoir Becoming that she would “never forgive” Trump for stirring up a bigoted lie in 2011 that her husband was not born in the United States.
The birther conspiracy theory, Mrs. Obama wrote, endangered her two daughters, Sasha and Malia (then 10 and 13, and now 17 and 20, respectively), and she blasted this crusade against her husband as “crazy and mean-spirited … its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed.
“But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks,” she wrote in the best-seller. “I feared the reaction. … 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.”
During Wednesday’s funeral service, Eric Deggans, NPR’s TV Critic, took notice of the weighty moment inside Washington National Cathedral, tweeting: “As much as I have criticized the way cable news is dissecting every facial twitch of the POTUSes and FLOTUSes at Bush’s funeral, Michelle Obama’s expression after she shakes Trump’s hand is priceless and says it all.”
The former head of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, also took note.
“An amazing moment and image. When Trump arrived everyone else stopped talking and looked straight ahead,” he wrote on Twitter. “Only the Obamas had the good fortune to shake Trump’s hand and if Michelle Obama’s face was any indication…well, let’s just say it wasn’t the best part of her day.”
As Michael Tackett of the New York Times’ Washington bureau tweeted of the handshakes between the Obamas: “None of them looked happy about it.”
While Trump and wife Melania greeted the Obamas with handshakes upon arrival, they did not appear to acknowledge the Bill and Hillary Clinton, seated on the other side of the Obamas.