In one of the most powerful speeches of the US presidential campaign so far, first lady Michelle Obama offered a powerful, personal response to the leaked tape showing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump making demeaning and predatory remarks about women in 2005—and reports that he has acted in the way he described.
“I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women,” she told the crowd at a campaign event for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire on Oct. 13. “And I have to tell you that I can’t stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way I couldn’t have predicted.”
“This is not normal,” she told the crowd. “This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful, it is intolerable.”
In a blockbuster of a speech, reminiscent of the one that stole the show at the Democratic National Convention, she described her reaction in emotional terms.
“All of us are doing what women have always done: We’re trying to keep our heads above water, just trying to get through it, trying to pretend like this doesn’t really bother us,” she said, visibly moved. “Maybe because we think that admitting how much it hurts makes us as women look weak. Maybe we’re afraid to be that vulnerable.”
Obama dismissed Trump’s claims that the comments caught on a hot mic in 2005 were “just locker room banter,” emphasizing that “this was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior.”
She urged women, a powerful voting bloc that Donald Trump had failed to win over even before the latest revelations, to vote for Hillary Clinton: “We as women, we as Americans, we as decent human beings can come together and say enough is enough,” she said.
The most powerful moment of the speech came when Obama spoke about how Trump’s comments resonated with her personally, and with so many other women:
I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally, as I’m sure many of you do too, particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies, the disrespect of our ambitions and intellect, the belief that you can do anything you want to a woman? It’s cruel, it’s frightening. The truth is that it hurts.
It’s like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you’re walking down the street, minding your own business and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long, and makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. It’s that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them or forced himself on them and they’ve said “No,” but he didn’t listen—something that we know happens on college campuses and countless other places every single day.
It reminds us of stories we’ve heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how back in their day the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office, and even though they’d worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough. We thought all of that was ancient history, didn’t we? And so many have worked for so many years to end this kind of violence and abuse and disrespect, but here we are. It’s 2016 and we’re hearing these exact same things every day on the campaign trail. We are drowning in it.
Here are the full remarks: