Metro

In N.H., Michelle Obama says Trump’s comments ‘shook me to my core’

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Her voice heightened and her anger palpable, Michelle Obama let loose a searing rebuke Thursday of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, casting the choice before voters as a moral decision between “right and wrong.’’

Obama, in her most forceful language of the campaign, disputed Trump’s explanation that his recently disclosed lewd, aggressive remarks about women were “locker room banter.’’

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This was not banter, she said at the rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Southern New Hampshire University.

“This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior,” Obama said. “And I feel it so personally. And I’m sure that many of you do, too, particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman. It is cruel.”

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It is also, Obama said, harmful for the next generation.

“If all of this is painful to us as grown women, what do you think this is doing to our children?” she said. “What messages are little girls hearing about who they should look like, how they should act. . . . And how is this affecting men and boys in this country?”

Before a crowd estimated at more than 1,500 by campaign officials, Obama lambasted Trump — though she never referred to him by name — praised Clinton, and called on Americans to reject the urge to vote for a third-party candidate or not vote at all.

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“Imagine waking up on November the ninth and looking into the eyes of your daughter or son or looking into your own eyes as you stare into the mirror,” Obama said. “Imagine how you’ll feel if you stayed home, or if you didn’t do everything possible to elect Hillary.”

Obama’s scathing message came amid new allegations by at least four women that Trump had sexually assaulted them. Last week, the Washington Post published a video that showed Trump bragging about predatory behavior toward women, including grabbing women by their genitals.

“I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics,” Obama said, noting that she had discarded her “normal campaign speech” for the day’s event. “Strong men, men who are truly role models, don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.”

Obama characterized the 2016 presidential race as a moral decision, in which Trump’s behavior had violated the rules of “basic human decency.”

‘‘I can’t stop thinking about this,” she said. “It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.’’

The audience included many young children — girls and boys — whose mothers said it was important for them to see the first lady as a counterpoint to Trump.

“I see this election through my daughter’s eyes,” said Kumari Ponnambalam of Nashua, who attended the rally with her 8-year-old daughter, Maya. “We’re choosing a role model for our children.”

Jill Topliff of Pembroke said Trump was using rhetoric that she would never want the men in her life to use. “It’s horrible,” she said.

Kristin Doane, a mother from Concord, said Trump was having a negative influence on families across the country. “Trump makes bullying OK,” she said. “People see this guy running for president, they think, if it’s OK for him to treat people like that, it could be OK for me, too. It encourages hatred.”

In introducing Obama, Governor Maggie Hassan used Trump’s rhetoric to knock her opponent in her Senate race, Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte.

“It was a real honor to introduce [Obama] today, who so powerfully said what we know to be true: [Trump] is not a role model,” Hassan tweeted following the event.

(Ayotte took significant criticism after calling Trump a role model for children during a recent debate with Hassan. She later said she had misspoken and over the weekend said she would not vote for Trump.)

Some in the crowd Thursday were more enthusiastic about Obama than about Clinton herself.

Corinne Rowe, who supported Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, said she had come around to voting for Clinton in the general election, but still wished the campaign focused less on Trump.

“I want to focus on what she’s doing and what she’s done throughout the years,” said Rowe, a third-grade teacher from Chichester .

Marwa Yamout, a student at Southern New Hampshire University studying environmental science, and an undecided voter, agreed.

“I’m looking for someone to tell my why Hillary is good, not just that Trump is bad,” Yamout said. “If not, I’m going to register but sit out in protest. I don’t believe in voting for the lesser of two evils.”

Toward the end of her speech, Obama did just that, praising Clinton for her longstanding record of public service.

“Hillary has been a lawyer, a law professor, first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, a US senator, secretary of state. And she has been successful in every role, gaining more experience and exposure to the presidency than any candidate in our lifetime,” Obama said.

“And yes,” she said. Clinton “happens to be a woman.”

Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@
globe.com
. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH.
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