During an address Thursday at a London school, First Lady Michelle Obama told a crowd she was from “the real part of Chicago,” echoing controversial comments from Gov. Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign describing small towns as “the real America.”
In remarks before the all-girls school, Mrs. Obama spoke of growing up in urban Chicago, an upbringing she said was an unlikely one for a future First Lady.
“For nothing in my life ever would have predicted that I would be standing here as the first African-American First Lady,” Mrs. Obama said, according to press reports. “I was not raised with wealth or resources or any social standing to speak of. I was raised on the South Side of Chicago — that’s the real part of Chicago.”
Mrs. Obama is in Europe this week accompanying President Barack Obama as he attended the G-20 summit in London.
Her comments don’t sit well with Republicans, who point also to criticism directed at former Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, who stumbled during his 2006 re-election campaign by making a racially-charged remark against a rival campaign worker of Indian descent, to whom Allen said “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.”
“The First Lady’s comments are stunning,” said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. “Given the unrelenting Democrat attacks against both Governor Palin and former Senator Allen, one would hope that the White House would be willing to offer up a clarification of what exactly Michelle Obama meant when she made this comment.”
First lady Michelle Obama hugs pupils during a visit to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language School in London. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan, Pool)
During the presidential campaign as Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin apologized after she was intensely criticized for her comments about “real America” during a North Carolina fundraiser.
“We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation,” said Palin, who later backpedaled from her remarks, saying she did not mean to give offense.
Mrs. Obama was a visible surrogate for her husband during the campaign, speaking at campaign events nationwide. As of publish time, Mrs. Obama’s press office had not returned requests for comment.