The director took time out from hosting Traverse City Film Festival to appear on MSNBC
Michael Moore has been busy this week hosting the 15th anniversary edition of his Traverse City Film Festival, appearing on panels, moderating Q&A's, greeting filmmakers and more. But he took a pause from that Wednesday night to throw an intriguing idea into the 2020 presidential race.
Appearing live via remote on MSNBC from the festival, Moore made a surprise plea, urging Michelle Obama to jump into the contest. He predicted that if she did she would defeat President Trump easily.
"If the election were held today, there is one person that would crush Trump. And she hasn't announced yet. And her last name rhymes with Obama. In fact it is Obama - Michelle Obama," he told host Brian Williams. Moore appeared on the network along with other political experts providing analysis of the second night of CNN's Democratic presidential debate in Detroit.
She started getting more and more into the attack and the analysis of what we're going through and making it very clear that she had not given up.
The former first lady has demonstrated broad appeal, Moore noted. In fact, an international survey released less than two weeks ago by polling and data analysis firm YouGov found Michelle Obama to be the most admired woman in the world.
"Everybody watching this right now knows she's a beloved American and she will go in there and she would beat [Trump], she would beat him in the debates, he wouldn't be able to bully her, he wouldn't be able to nickname her," he declared. "Just go to C-SPAN and follow her book tour across the country. She's playing 15,000-seat arenas in the Midwest. They have to turn people away. She takes the stage and she's so powerful and she's so good."
In an interview with Nonfictionfilm.com Thursday morning, Moore reiterated his support for a Michelle Obama presidential run.
"It was something I think a lot of people have been thinking about," he told us. "Nobody's saying it out loud and yet when I said it I can tell by the reaction online afterwards that everybody who heard it immediately, I think, started nodding their head, 'Yes, of course!'"
Moore acknowledged Michelle Obama has spoken of a sense of relief at no longer being under the microscope in the political arena. But he argued Mrs. Obama has shown signs more recently of rejoining the battle.
"First thing when I say this, people go, 'It's a nice thought, yes, she would beat him, crush him, but she's never going to run.’ And I would have agreed with that last fall," he told us. "I watched her appearance at the first stop on her book tour [for her memoir Becoming] at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square in New York City and she made it very clear she was very happy to be out of the White House. And then the book tour continued and very quickly she was no longer in bookstores. Suddenly she was at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn with 10- to 15,000 people there. And she extended the tour once or twice... And as each month went on... she was no longer the reluctant 'I don't want to do this anymore' American. She took to the stage to a tremendous roar from the audience, a diverse audience of all kinds of Americans and she started getting more and more into the attack and the analysis of what we're going through and making it very clear that she had not given up, that she was not somehow removed but actually very much engaged."
We reached out to Michelle Obama's office for reaction, but haven't heard back. Moore says he previously sent word through mutual friends to express support for a Michelle Obama candidacy.
"I don't know her. I'm not a personal friend. I have spoken to friends of hers and I've asked them to speak to her," he noted. "And what I said on [MSNBC] last night is that I know, of course, she doesn't want to go back there [to the White House], but there are those moments in history when your country calls you to serve, there's no choice. Easy for me to say. I'd be happy to do it for her if I could say the same thing about myself in terms of being able to crush [Trump]. She's the one who can do it."
Moore's announcement comes as a surprise because he's been a strong backer of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, both in 2016 and during the senator's current campaign.
"In my humble opinion, four of these candidates running could beat Trump: Bernie, [Joe] Biden, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren," Moore told MSNBC Wednesday night. "They could beat him. But Hillary beat him. It's not enough just to beat Trump. The only way to remove Trump is to crush Trump. And that's the question that has to be asked. Who can crush Trump? Who's the street fighter? We saw it in Bernie [Tuesday] night. Who's the street fighter that can crush Trump?"
He told Nonfictionfilm.com Bernie and the other top Democratic candidates are good candidates, but they aren't in Michelle Obama's league.
"That's true. Right," he affirmed. "They are not as strong [as Michelle Obama]."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.