Michelle Obama was bombarded with racist abuse and slurs during her time as the first lady – but her former Secret Service agent says there was nothing she could do about it.
Ex-Agent Evy Poumpouras has spoken out about the difficulties of not stepping in when Obama faced racist abuse.
In her 2020 memoir, Becoming Bulletproof, Poumpouras spoke about “feeling outraged” when Obama was faced with racial language and slurs.
“As the first Black First Lady of the United States, Mrs Obama had to withstand certain kinds of disparagement that none of her predecessors ever faced.
“I was on her protective detail when we were driving to a school to deliver a speech, we passed someone on a bridge holding up a shockingly racist sign directed at her,” she wrote.
She continued, “I remember feeling outraged — after all, it was part of our job to protect the first family mentally as well as physically. But if the First Lady saw the sign, she gave no indication of it.”
The former agent also spoke to Insider about her desire to do more in those situations and instead felt hopeless.
“I could do nothing. There’s freedom of speech in the United States, and even if I personally feel that speech is wrong, the law doesn’t give me the power to take that person’s speech away.
“They could say whatever they wanted so long as there was no imminent threat of harm.”
Poumpouras shared that the only thing the agents could do was to remove those heckling from the event or gathering.
Obama spoke about how these racist attacks cut her deep in a 2017 interview with The Denver Post.
“The shards that cut me the deepest were the ones that intended to cut,” she said, referencing being called an ape and hearing comments made about her body.
“Knowing that after eight years of working really hard for this country, there are still people who won’t see me for what I am because of my skin color,” she said at the time.”