*Michelle Obama’s former secret service agent Evy Poumpouras says an upsetting part of her previous job was not being able to protect the former first lady from racial slurs or signs while on duty.
“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,” she added.
Poumpouras served on the presidential protective division for Michelle and Barack Obama during their time at the White House. She also protected George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush during her 12 years in the secret service.
Poumpouras told Insider that there was no protocol in place for dealing with verbal or written forms of racism.
“I could do nothing,” she said. “There’s freedom of speech in the United States, and even if I personally feel that speech is wrong, the law doesn’t give me the power to take that person’s speech away.” Poumpouras said the only way she’d be allowed to intervene was if she thought the first lady or President was in danger of 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,” she said. However, the organizers of external events were able to remove members of the public who were “heckling” the first family, according to Poumpouras.
“I could not step in and say, ‘Hey, don’t say that,'” she said. “But the staff could say, ‘We don’t accept that type of language here. This is our private property. Please leave.’ Only then could someone do something, but as painful as it was, I had to abide by the law.”
Below, Poumpouras detailed her protection of Mrs. Obama on “The Steve Harvey Show” in 2015.