Obama criticised for making €400k Wall Street speech

He will serve as the keynote speaker at a health conference in September

Obama criticised for making €400k Wall Street speech

Former President Barack Obama pauses as he hosts a conversation on civic engagement and community organisation at the University of Chicago in Chicago. Image: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/Press Association Images

Former President Barack Obama is coming under fire over an upcoming speech in September in which he'll be paid $400,000 (€365,600) by Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald LP.

Obama will appear at the firm's healthcare conference later this year, Fox Business Network initially reported.

He will serve as the keynote speaker for one day at the company's event, sources there told Fox Business. The network's sources said Obama has signed a contract for the speech with the mid-size investment bank in New York.

The large fee has been criticised - most notably from members of his own party. 

"I was troubled by that," Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, a fierce Wall Street critic, said yesterday in an interview.

“One of the things I talk about in the book [Warren's new book This Fight Is Our Fight] is the influence of money. It’s a snake that slithers through Washington,” she continued.

Meghan McCain, Republic Senator John McCain's daughter, called Obama "a dirty capitalist like the rest of us".

“I would pay money not to have to sit through a speech from President Obama because I find him that boring. It’s like sitting through every class I hated in college," she added.

However, others have defended the move, including from the host of The Daily Show Trevor Noah.

“I know people may say that it weakens public trust when politicians cash in immediately after leaving office, but at least Obama waited until he left office, unlike this guy,” Noah said, pointing at a photo of President Donald Trump, “who’s using the office like an ATM machine.”

“At this point, he’s not even trying to hide how being the president is making him bank [...] Honestly, I’m surprised the [Trump tax] plan didn’t include a deduction for unflattering golf pants.”

Eric Schultz, Obama’s spokesman, defended the former president Wednesday by citing financial reforms during his tenure.

“With regard to this or any speech involving Wall Street sponsors, I’d just point out that in 2008, Barack Obama raised more money from Wall Street than any candidate in history — and still went on to successfully pass and implement the toughest reforms on Wall Street since [former President Franklin D. Roosevelt]," he said.

Return to public life

Obama reappeared on the public stage Monday, making his first public remarks since leaving the White House at the future site of his presidential library.

The former president did not mention President Trump or offer political commentary during his appearance at the University of Chicago.

“There’s a reason why I am always optimistic, even when things look like they are sometimes not going the way I want,” he said at a round-table about youth participation in civic life in Chicago. “And that’s because of young people like this.”