Michelle Obama Defends Patriotism, Jokes of 'Girl Fight' on 'View'

Candidate's wife attempts to soften image as husband looks to win women's votes.

ByABC News
June 18, 2008, 1:15 PM

June 18, 2008 — -- Michelle Obama made her debut appearance on ABC's "The View" Wednesday as her husband, Sen. Barack Obama, wages a fight against Sen. John McCain for the support of women voters, a key bloc in the race for the White House.

Obama appeared relaxed, cracking jokes alongside "View" co-hosts Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Joy Behar, and Sherri Sheperd.

Her appearance on the popular women's daytime television program coincides with an attempt by the Obama campaign to soften her image and combat efforts by some conservatives to paint her as unpatriotic or angry.

"I have to be greeted properly -- fist-bump, please," Obama said in her opening line, pressing fists with each of her co-hosts in response to a Fox News Channel report depicting her fist "dap" with her husband on the night he won the nomination as a "terrorist fist jab."

She explained she learned the greeting from young staffers on the Obama campaign.

"It's the new high-five," she said.

Asked by ABC's Barbara Walters how she has been dealing with widespread criticism of her patriotism, Obama said she has taken it in stride. The potential first lady sparked conservative outrage when she said at a Wisconsin rally early in the primaries that her husband's candidacy was "the first time in my adult life I am really proud of my country."

She later clarified her remarks, but the Tennessee GOP Party created an online video criticizing her remark, and the tape has been replayed numerous times on cable television.

Appearing eager to set the record straight Wednesday in front of a television audience of millions of women, Obama said she is "proud of my country, without a doubt."

"I'm a girl who grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago let me tell you, of course I'm proud," she said. "Nowhere but in America could my story be possible."

"What I was talking about is pride in the political process," she said.

The wife of the presumptive Democratic nominee said she puts her "heart out on my sleeve" when she is campaigning and doing so sometimes gets her in trouble with critics.

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin has called her "his bitter half," and the conservative National Review ran a depiction of her on its cover with an angry scowl and the caption "Mrs. Grievance."

Asked by Walters about the constant media scrutiny, Obama said, "The more people get to know me, get to know my family," the more voters will be attracted to her husband's candidacy.

Obama, 44, would become the nation's first African-American first lady if her husband wins the White House in November, and she would be one of the youngest first ladies since Jackie Kennedy.