Michelle Obama's former secret service agent says most upsetting part of job was being unable to protect her from racist abuse
Michelle Obama's former secret service agent says most upsetting part of job was being unable to protect her from racist abuse
Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Glamour

There’s no doubt that being a secret service agent for a high-profile figure comes with an array of challenges, mostly involving life or death calculations.

But one former secret service agent to former first lady Michelle Obama, says the most upsetting part of her previous job was not being able to protect her from racist slurs or signs while on duty.

In her 12 years in the secret service, Evy Poumpouras served on the presidential protective division for Michelle and Barack Obama during their time in the White House. Poumpouras also protected George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush.

“As the first Black First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Obama had to withstand certain kinds of disparagement that none of her predecessors ever faced,” Poumpouras wrote in her 2020 memoir, “Becoming Bulletproof.”

“I was on her protective detail when we were driving to a school to deliver a speech; we passed someone on a bridge holding up a shockingly racist sign directed at her.

“I remember feeling outraged — after all, it was part of our job to protect the first family mentally as well as physically. But if the First Lady saw the sign, she gave no indication of it,” Poumpouras added. 

During her time in the secret service, Poumpouras told Insider there was no protocol in place for dealing with verbal or written forms of racism. She mentioned that the only way she would be allowed to intervene was if she thought the first lady or President was in danger of physically being harmed. 

“When it came to speech, they could call them names. They could say whatever they wanted so long as there was no imminent threat of harm,” Poumpouras added.

The first time Michelle Obama spoke candidly about her experience with racism was in 2017, at the 30th anniversary of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.

“The shards that cut me deepest were the ones that intended to cut,” Obama told WFCO President and CEO Lauren Casteel, referencing being compared to an ape, according to the publication. “Knowing that after eight years of working really hard for this country, there are still people who won’t see me for what I am because of my skin color.”

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