False claim: Barack Obama is first president to criticize successor

A widely shared image on social media makes the claim that Barack Obama, 44th U.S. President, is the first former president to criticize his successor.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during an Obama Foundation event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

One example of the image is accompanied by text claiming Obama interrupted a “long tradition of decency and decorum” ( here ). Other iterations include a screenshot of Trump quoting the claim on Twitter ( here ).

Barack Obama has criticized Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “chaotic”, in a leaked conference call with former members of his administration ( here ).

On May 10, Trump tweeted “OBAMAGATE!” ( here ) in response to Obama’s comments, prompting his followers to make the hashtag a trending topic ( here ).

The claim that Obama is the first former president to criticize his successor, however, is false. Multiple former presidents have done so including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Gerald R. Ford, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.


In 2015, George W. Bush publicly criticized his successor, Barack Obama. “According to multiple reports on a closed-door Saturday event with Jewish donors,” Business Insider reported, “Bush offered his harshest public assessment of President Barack Obama's foreign policy.” ( here )


In 2007, amid Hillary Clinton’s first bid for U.S. president, her husband and former president Bill Clinton, criticized then President George W. Bush’s administration for failing in Iraq, saying there was no evidence of much-needed political or diplomatic progress ( here ).

“There is no evidence that, whether we have a good day in a particular community or region in Iraq, that we have either the political reconciliation process within the country working or any diplomatic process that’s got a chance to help with the neighbors,” the former Democratic president said.


In 1982, Jimmy Carter responded to criticisms by his successor, Ronald Reagan, accusing Reagan of “not accepting his responsibilities” as president, the New York Times reported ( here ).

According to the Times, a few days previously Reagan had blamed the Carter Administration for the recession and said that when he took office, “we found America in the worst economic mess since the days of Franklin Roosevelt.”


President Gerald Ford was critical of his successor, Jimmy Carter, according to a New York Times article from June 24, 1979 ( here ).

Ford was “critical of his successor’s fiscal — and energy policies” but said that he would not seek the Republican Presidential nomination, the Times reported.


The Eisenhower National Historic Site has also stated that Eisenhower expressed dislike towards his successor, John F. Kennedy.

After Kennedy’s victory in the election, he reportedly stated with sarcasm, "We have a new genius in our midst who is incapable of making any mistakes and therefore deserving of no criticism whatsoever” ( here ).


False. Barack Obama is not the first former president to criticize his successor.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts .