The claim: All four living U.S. presidents have publicly denounced President Donald Trump
Recent presidents have observed a tradition where they do not criticize their successors. Donald Trump’s presidency has damaged, but not ended, this norm despite some online claims.
“Literally, FOUR presidents say he’s unfit,” an Instagram post by @equalitymeansall liked thousands of times reads. USA TODAY reached out to account for comment.
What have former presidents said?
In general, criticism of Trump among former presidents falls along partisan lines. Former Democratic Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have all made various comments accusing Trump of being unfit for office.
The last two Republican presidents, George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush, did not issue direct condemnations of Trump in 2016. George W. Bush has maintained this for the 2020 election cycle. His father died in 2018.
The former Democratic presidents have endorsed Joe Biden for the presidency. Bush has withheld his endorsement.
Fact check: Biden said he’d fact-check Trump during presidential debates
Barack Obama on his successor
While Obama abstained from criticizing his successor early on in Trump’s term, the former president has been an increasingly vocal critic of the sitting president as the Trump era has progressed.
“He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years. A fear and anger that’s rooted in our past, but it’s also borne out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes,” Obama said to students during a September 2018 speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
‘It is what it is’: Michelle Obama says Trump is ‘wrong president for our country’ in DNC speech
“They promised to take on corruption … they have gone to Washington and just plundered away,” Obama also said during an October 2018 campaign stop in Wisconsin. “In Washington, they have racked up enough indictments to field a football team.”
The former president gave his most direct and impassioned rebuke of Trump during the 2020 Democratic National Convention last month.
Analysis: Obama, Trump brawl breaks with history
“I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies,” Obama said in his convention speech. “I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously, that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.
“But he never did,” he said.
“He has shown no interest in putting in the work, no interest in finding common ground, no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends,” he also said.
“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” Obama said. “And the consequences of that failure are severe.”
Fact check: Meme accurately describes legal trouble for members of 2016 Trump campaign
Bill Clinton on Trump
Clinton has been more muted in his condemnations of Trump, though his opinion of the current president is clear.
Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, was Trump’s opponent in the 2016 presidential race and has remained an outspoken critic of Trump since her loss.
“Donald Trump says we’re leading the world. Well, we are the only major industrial economy to have its unemployment rate triple,” Clinton said during his 2020 DNC speech.
“At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center. Instead, it’s a storm center. There’s only chaos,” he continued.
Fact check: Antifa.com redirects to Joe Biden’s website, but Biden campaign not involved
Jimmy Carter on Trump
The former Democratic president from Georgia has been another vocal critic of Donald Trump.
Carter has openly questioned the integrity of the 2016 election, claiming that Trump is an illegitimate president because of Russian interference.
“There’s no doubt that the Russians did interfere in the election. And I think the interference, although not yet quantified, if fully investigated would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016. He lost the election and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf,” Carter said in June 2019.
“But one of the major factors I have in my mind is who can beat Trump,” Carter said of the contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in September 2019. “Because I think it would be a disaster to have four more years of Trump.”
Fact check: Kamala Harris said protests aren’t going to stop, but condemns violence
The Bush family withholds comment
The last two Republican presidents to occupy the White House before Trump, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, chose not to openly criticize Trump after he received the Republican Party’s 2016 nomination for president.
Neither of the Bush presidents endorsed or spoke out against Trump in 2016.
George H.W. Bush reportedly wanted the sitting president to appear at his funeral. (Trump did attend.)
But George W. Bush is among a group of prominent Republicans who likely will not be voting for Trump in the 2020 presidential election, according to a June New York Times report. USA TODAY reached out to the George W. Bush Presidential Center for comment.
Fact check: Altered video clip purports to show Joe Biden asleep on live TV
Our ruling: Partly false
We rate this claim as PARTLY FALSE. It is true that three of the four living former American presidents have publicly criticized President Donald Trump and endorsed his Democratic opponent. But former President George W. Bush has withheld public criticism and the 43rd president’s view is officially unclear.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, Sept. 7, 2018, Read transcript of former President Obama’s speech, blasting President Trump
USA TODAY, Oct. 26, 2018, ‘Nobody in my administration got indicted’: Obama goes after Trump, GOP in fiery speech
USA TODAY, Aug. 19, 2020, Barack Obama gives scathing DNC speech: ‘Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t’
USA TODAY, Jan. 14, 2019, ‘Like I said: A puppet,’ Hillary Clinton tweets after recent reports about Trump, Russia
Axios, Aug. 18, 2020, “There’s only chaos”: Bill Clinton to attack Trump directly in DNC speech
CNN, June 28, 2019, Jimmy Carter suggests Trump is an illegitimate president
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sept. 18, 2019, Jimmy Carter says Trump re-election would be ‘a disaster’
POLITICO, Dec. 1, 2018, Despite bitter family rivalry, Bush wanted Trump at his funeral
New York Times, June 6, 2020, Vote for Trump? These Republican Leaders Aren’t on the Bandwagon
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Ex-presidents vary in public statements about Donald Trump