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 then-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 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.
Michelle Obama also shared more personal details in her book, including that both of her daughters were conceived via in vitro fertilization, much of the process for which she handled on her own while Barack Obama was away serving in the Illinois state legislature.
The former first lady’s book is scheduled to be released to the public next Tuesday.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine