Photos show Michelle Obama and George W. Bush's enduring friendship, built on wisecracks and cough drops

Saul Loeb / AFP / GettyFormer US President George W. Bush smiles as he speaks with First Lady Michelle Obama during an event marking the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015.
  • Former First Lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush are old friends who don’t let their party and political differences get in the way.
  • Bush said he likes Obama because she gets his humour, while Obama called Bush her “partner-in-crime.”
  • The friendship, which began when former President Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, has had its fair share of viral moments, including several sly cough drop handovers and a sweet embrace.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It’s an iconic friendship.

Since 2009, former Republican president George W. Bush and former first lady Michelle Obama have hit it off, sharing some truly memorable moments.

In 2016, they had a sweet embrace that was impossible to fake. In 2018, Bush handed Obama cough drops on two different occasions – the first at the memorial service for late Sen. John McCain, and the second at the funeral for George H. Bush, Bush’s father.

Obama told the “Today” show, “I love him to death. He’s a wonderful man, he’s a funny man.” While Bush told People they just “took to each other.”

It’s also a friendship that’s been a little out of their hands. Obama and Bush are often seatmates at official functions, so they can spend a lot of time next to each other.

Here’s their friendship, in photos.


The friendship blossomed in 2009, at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Rick Friedman / Corbis / GettyFormer President Barack Obama smiles at George W. Bush as they listen to the inauguration ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. As well as Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha (hidden behind Michelle).

It’s a relationship that’s been partly out of their hands since Obama and Bush are often seatmates at official functions. Of which, they attend a lot.

Jae C. Hong / APFirst Lady Michelle Obama, from left, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush leave the funeral service for former First Lady Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Friday, March 11, 2016, in Simi Valley, Calif.

They will often be seated next to each other at inaugurations or funerals for major political figures.


But even when they aren’t seated, the couples can be seen together.

Mary Altaffer / APThe two presidential couples at the National September 11 Memorial for a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks at World Trade Centre, in 2011.

In 2016, Obama and Bush showed the world their enduring friendship with a sweet embrace.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / APFirst lady Michelle Obama hugs former President George W. Bush during the dedication ceremony for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016.

The two attended the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Jenna Bush Hager, Bush’s daughter, called it “the hug that went around the world.”


In 2016, the pair shared a moment during a memorial service for five police officers who were killed in Dallas.

Eric Gay/APFirst lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush at the event.

“Party doesn’t separate us. Colour, gender – those kinds of things don’t separate us. It’s the messages that we send,” Obama told NBC News.


They also sang together.

Carlo Allegri / ReutersFormer President George W. Bush, First Lady Michelle Obama, and President Barack Obama sing during a memorial service following the multiple police shootings in Dallas, Texas, U.S., July 12, 2016.

They sang the Civil War-era song “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” to honour fallen police officers who were killed by a sniper during a peaceful protest over the police killing of two African-American men.

Bush also raised a few eyebrows for dancing and lifting his wife and Obama’s hands during the somber song.


Bush spoke to People about their friendship in 2017.

Gerald Herbert/AP

“I needle her a little bit and around her, I’m fairly lighthearted,” he said. “[The Obamas] are around serious people all the time and we just took to each other.”


In 2017, he told Ellen DeGeneres that their friendship surprised everybody.

Bill Frakes / APNote Obama’s raised eyebrow.

“That’s what’s so weird about society today, [the surprise] that people on opposite sides of the political spectrum can actually like each other,” he said.


In 2018, at late Sen. John McCain’s memorial, Obama saw Laura Bush hand her husband a cough drop, and asked for one, too.

Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post / GettyFormer presidents Barack Obama and George Bush with their wives Michelle and Laura talks with former VP Al Gore at the funeral service at the National Cathedral for Sen. John S. McCain.

“I looked over and I said, ‘Hand me a cough drop,” she told “Today.” Bush did as he was told.


A clip of Obama mouthing “thank you” after the handover went viral.

Time / YoutubeBush hands Obama a cough drop at John McCain’s memorial.

According to Business Insider’s Eliza Relman, the moment “became a symbol of bipartisanship and human decency at a time of deep political and cultural division.”


In 2018, Obama said Bush was her “partner in crime.”

Pablo Monsivais / APThe pair at the dedication ceremony for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in 2016.

In an interview with Today, Obama spoke about their friendship, after their interaction at the memorial had gone viral.


She said she loved him “to death,” and that he was “a wonderful and funny man.”

David Hume Kennerly / Bank of America/GettyFirst Lady Laura Bush, former President George W Bush, First Lady Michelle Obama, and President Barack Obama.

She also mentioned the cough drops had come in a White House box, leading her to ask how long he’d had them. He responded, “A long time – we got a lot of these!”


Then, at Bush’s father’s memorial in late 2018, as he greeted a line of past and present American presidents, he slyly slipped another cough drop into Obama’s hand.

Carolyn Kaster / APThe State Funeral for former President George H.W. Bush at the National Cathedral, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Washington.

In December 2019, Obama defended Ellen DeGeneres when the host was ridiculed for having a friendship with Bush.

Angel Marchini/SOPA Images/LightRocket / GettyToronto hosted former First Lady, Michelle Obama, as she travels the continent on her book tour, ‘Becoming’. ‘Becoming’ is an autobiographical memoir of the First Lady’s time in office.

DeGeneres was criticised for her friendship with Bush after a photo went viral showing the pair sitting together at a football game.


Obama told “Today” that while they agreed on policy, their values were the same.

Joshua Roberts / ReutersFormer first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush in 2016.

“We don’t disagree on humanity. We don’t disagree about love and compassion. I think that’s true for all of us. It’s just that we get lost in our fear of what’s different,” she said.

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