Trump takes a swipe at Michelle Obama

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Eisenhower Hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Oct 22, 2016.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Eisenhower Hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Oct 22, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

FLETCHER (North Carolina) • Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made First Lady Michelle Obama a public target of his anger for the first time, attacking her for comments she once made about his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton.

"All she wants to do is campaign. And I see how much (she) likes Hillary," Mr Trump told a rally on Friday as he shifted his attack from President Barack Obama to the First Lady in the final weeks of the race.

"But wasn't she the one that originally started the statement: If you can't take care of your home... you can't take care of the White House or the country," he said.

He was referring to a remark Mrs Obama made in 2007 while campaigning for her husband, who was then running against Mrs Clinton.

The remarks caused a stir as many saw it as a dig at Mr Bill Clinton's indiscretions.

But the Obama team had insisted that the line referred to their candidate and his wife's own struggle with parenting during a campaign.

"She's the one that started that," Mr Trump said on Friday. "I said 'We can't say that, it's too vicious,'" he went on. "Now she said that, but we don't hear about that."

Mrs Obama earned praise from Mrs Clinton recently for a withering critique of Mr Trump and his "intolerable" attitude towards women.

The real estate mogul is facing accusations from several women who claimed he had touched them without their consent. They came forward with their accounts after the release of a 2005 video in which Mr Trump bragged about groping and kissing women.

The White House had warned against Mr Trump potentially firing back at the First Lady after her anti- Trump speech. "I can't think of a bolder way for Donald Trump to lose even more standing than he already has than by engaging the First Lady of the United States," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

Mr Trump is trailing Mrs Clinton in most polls - although he has narrowed the gap according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday.

He was expected to lay out his plans for the first 100 days of his presidency while campaigning in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania yesterday. At a private campaign event on Friday, Mr Trump said if elected president, he would look to build 350 new warships for the US Navy, constructed at dry docks in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Virginia and built with "US steel".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 23, 2016, with the headline 'Trump takes a swipe at Michelle Obama'. Print Edition | Subscribe