White House: Bush, Obama were not criticizing Trump in speeches

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Friday that former Presidents Obama and George W. Bush were referring to President Trump when they warned in separate speeches Thursday about politicians sowing anger and division in the country. 

“Our understanding is that those comments were not directed towards the president and, in fact, when these two individuals, both past presidents, have criticized the president, they've done so by name and very rarely do it without being pretty direct, as both of them tend to be,” Sanders said. “So we will take them at their word that these actions and comments were not directed at the president.”


Bush did not mention Trump by name, but warned at a forum in New York City that “bigotry seems emboldened” and that it is time for Americans to reject “white supremacy.” 

Trump has been criticized for his equivocating response to the fatal, racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va., in which he said there was blame to be had “on many sides.”

Bush also lamented the “sharpened partisan conflicts” and said “our politics seem more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

Sanders did not respond to shouted questions about whether Trump agrees that bigotry is on the rise, but shot back at a reporter who asked about the spread of conspiracy theories.

“If anybody is pushing a lot of fabricated things right now, I think most of that would be coming from the news media," Sanders said. "We would certainly agree with that sentiment.”

Bush also nodded to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, saying that the U.S. faces a “new era of cyber threats” that “should never be downplayed or tolerated.”

“Do we agree that Russian interference should not be tolerated? Absolutely,” Sanders said. “We said that many times before … I know I've said [it] at least a dozen times from this podium.”

Obama also did not mention Trump by name in his speech but similarly decried the political landscape, which he said had become “so divided and so angry and so nasty.”

The former president also nodded to the protests and violence in Charlottesville, Va.

"Some of the politics we see now, we thought we had put that to bed," Obama said. "That's folks looking 50 years back. It's the 21st century, not the 19th century."