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Michelle Obama accuses Trump of racism, urges Americans alienated by politics to vote

Michelle Obama smiles in a close-up image.
Michelle Obama is encouraging Black voters and other voters of color and well as young people to make a plan to vote.
(Associated Press)

Michelle Obama, in a video released Tuesday, accused President Trump of racism and of lying to the American people about the deadliness of COVID-19, and she encouraged young voters and people of color to make a plan to cast their ballots.

“It’s painful to think that months into this crisis, this is still where we are, with no clear plan, no peace of mind. And the worst part is, it didn’t have to be like this,” she said in the video, titled “Closing Argument” released by the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris campaign.

The former first lady did not hold back in criticizing Trump, saying that he failed where others succeeded in containing the virus. During the 24-minute video, she also accused the president of telling racist lies “about how minorities will destroy the suburbs” to whip up fear and distract “from his breathtaking failures.”

Young voters of color and others who feel alienated by the political process “cannot afford to withhold our votes or waste them on a protest candidate,” she said.

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Trump’s and Biden’s reactions to racial injustice and protests illuminate how they approached the issue of race throughout their political careers.

“Politics has never been my thing,” said Obama, who has turned down invitations to run for office. But she has been an influential voice in politics, often encouraging young people to vote, and in discussing race in America. She spoke at the Democratic National Convention in August, where she said Trump had failed to meet the moment during a time of racial reckoning and a deadly pandemic. The COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. has now surpassed 210,000.

The U.S. death toll — 200,000 — from the coronavirus has passed the total from WWI and the Vietnam War combined. Here’s a look at COVID-19’s place in history.

Trump knew COVID-19 was deadly, she said, yet he ignored advice from the country’s top medical experts and failed to secure testing for families and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. She noted that more Americans have died from COVID-19 than were killed in the Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Korean wars combined.

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“Our commander in chief, sadly, has been missing in action. And his willful mismanagement of the COVID crisis is just one example of his negligence,” she said.

She went on to list others: his silence as wildfires raged on the West Coast; his disparagement of peaceful protesters; his dismissive comments about veterans and the war dead.

A new report details multiple instances of President Trump making disparaging remarks about members of the U.S. military who have been captured or killed, including referring to the American war dead in a cemetery in France as “losers” and “suckers.”

Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, called Obama’s words “baseless attacks.”

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Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director, defended the president’s response to the crisis and claimed Biden would have handled it worse. The former vice president, he said, “has offered nothing but hyperpartisan, useless criticisms.”

In her video, Obama said the former vice president, if elected, would issue free COVID-19 testing and work with other leaders on a national strategy to mandate masks and contain the virus, two things Trump has not done. Biden “will listen to doctors and scientists to make sure that any vaccine will be safe, effective and available to everyone,” she said.

She also addressed the issue of racial injustice in the U.S. One thing that Trump is good at is spreading fear, confusion and lies, she said, referencing his comments about the mostly peaceful protests over police killings of Black men and women.

Obama, the descendant of an enslaved person, called on undecided voters to consider what it’s like for “all those folks like me and my ancestors, the moms and dads who work their fingers to the bone,” who live up to the values the country claims to hold — truth, honor, decency — “only to have those efforts met by scorn, not just by your fellow citizens, but by a sitting president.”

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“Imagine how it feels to have a suspicion cast on you from the day you were born, simply because of the hue of your skin. To walk around your own country scared that someone’s unjustified fear of you could put you in harm’s way,” she said.

To young, Black and brown voters considering sitting out the election, Obama encouraged them to make a plan to vote, saying: “We don’t have the luxury to assume that things are going to turn out okay.”

“Work like this may not feel as impactful as attending a protest,” she said, “but trust me, it is absolutely the most important thing that we can do right now, to save our democracy.”


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