For the most part, we all remember the Barack Obama presidency for its dignity and grace. Now that we live in an era where politics is nonstop mudslinging and culture wars, it’s fun to remember a time when the biggest negative headlines with Obama’s name in them concerned him wearing a tan suit (oh, the horror!).
However, just because Barack and Michelle Obama didn’t generate the nonstop embarrassing headlines that Donald Trump did, that doesn’t mean the two of them didn’t have some hilariously embarrassing moments of the years, and the best of these (or should that be “the worst?”) were captured on video.
Just what were the most embarrassing moments for Barack and Michelle Obama? Keep reading to find out!
Barack Obama accidentally says he is a Muslim
One of the weirder controversies that surrounded Barack Obama during his time as president was that political opponents kept trying to claim he was a Muslim. This included everyone from conservative activists to Donald Trump himself, who didn’t correct supporters when they claimed Obama was a Muslim.
Most of these claims are rooted, quite frankly, in simple racism. But in a 2008 interview, Obama said that “you’re absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith.” He was referring to the fact that McCain had not made erroneous claims about Obama’s faith. However, this clip is circulated to this day by people who think that Obama is genuinely admitting he is a Muslim.
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Things get weird between Michelle Obama and Ellen Degeneres
Michelle Obama was very much a FLOTUS of the people, and she wasn’t afraid to make public appearances in order to engage with her supporters. However, when she appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show, things got awkward and embarrassing, and this clip is even more cringe-worthy today than ever before.
The two famous women are shopping together, but Obama has to keep admonishing DeGeneres by saying things like “can you chill out” and “this is not how you behave!” The cringe culminated with DeGeneres asking if she could have her face on a bill and Obama telling her that she had to do something momentous, like freeing slaves a la Harriet Tubman, to get her face on a bill.
Near the end, Obama laments that this was like “taking a 3-year-old to the store.” At the time, everyone chalked this all up to bad comedy, but the whole thing is more embarrassing now amid numerous allegations of DeGeneres mistreating her staff. In retrospect, she really might not know how to behave in a supermarket without freaking everyone out, Michelle Obama included.
Barack Obama calls Kanye West a ‘jackass’ on a hot mic
Part of why Barack Obama has a reputation for being so cool and controlled is that he is a great speaker and knows exactly what to say when the cameras are rolling. But in this clip, Obama didn’t know that he was being recorded, and he let the world know how he really feels about Kanye West.
In the video, Obama is discussing the infamous moment when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift receiving her award at the MTV Music Video Awards to say “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!” An off-the-cuff Obama rightly declares that West was a “jackass” for doing this. While Obama looked sheepish when he realized he was on camera, his comments about West have aged like fine wine, especially as the singer dips further into antisemitic hysteria.
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Michelle Obama’s awkward interaction with Melania Trump
Considering how many hostile and racist comments Donald Trump made about Barack Obama over the years, both he and Michelle were practically saints when they welcomed the Trumps to the White House ahead of Donald Trump’s formal inauguration. However, things got weird very quickly, and all because of the last person anyone would suspect: Melania Trump!
With her New Yorker sensibilities, Melania decided to bring Michelle Obama a special gift from Tiffany’s. As soon as they met, Melania handed Michelle the famous blue box. But Michelle didn’t know what to do with it (for example, should they take photos with or without the box?), and she had a downright puzzled expression on her face until Barack simply grabbed the box and took it inside.
Barack Obama versus…the stairs?
For the most part, Barack Obama is rightfully remembered as one of the healthiest and fittest American presidents in recent memory. What other president not only plays so much basketball and looks good while doing it? But all the athleticism in the world couldn’t keep Obama from nearly tumbling down the stairs of Air Force One.
To his credit, Obama caught himself and then descended the rest of the stairs with his dignity mostly intact. Years later, his former Vice President Joe Biden would make a much more disgraceful show of nearly falling down these stairs while simply trying to walk into the plane.
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Michelle Obama goes nuclear on a heckler
As we noted before, Michelle Obama has made a great number of public appearances and speeches, and she has gotten her fair share of hecklers. And while she’s normally able to deal with these hecklers with her customary poise and grace, she nearly went nuclear on Ellen Sturtz when the woman kept interrupting Obama during a Democratic fundraiser in 2013.
It took no time at all for Michelle Obama to get in the other woman’s face and essentially issue an ultimatum: “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.” Of course, the ultimatum was really directed at the crowd, who could decide whether they wanted to hear from the First Lady or from an angry protester. The crowd quickly turned on the heckler, and she was escorted out so that Michelle Obama could finish her speech.
Things get awkward when Michelle Obama is in the Hot Seat
Despite that earlier awkwardness, Michelle Obama kept making appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Most of the appearances were pretty straightforward, but when Obama appeared in the “Hot Seat” a few years ago, things started going downhill very quickly.
It all starts when DeGeneres asks Obama to admit what she “stole” from the White House. This was likely meant to be a comedy bit (like asking someone if they ever steal any pens or cups from work), but Obama looked clearly confused and a bit offended before she explained that she and Barack Obama paid for everything and that this detail was in her book (you know…the one she came on the show to promote).
Eventually, the two recover and start joking about what DeGeneres stole from the White House during her visit (the napkins from the bathroom, if you’re curious). But judging from the extremely awkward giggling in the audience after that first question, it looks like most of the people in the room found that first question just as embarrassing and off-putting as Obama did.
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