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Former President Bush comments on public's fascination with Michelle Obama friendship

Bush discussed his bond with the former first lady during an exclusive interview on TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Michelle Obama have developed a special friendship over the years, and he's still surprised that the public thinks it's such a big deal.

During an exclusive interview with TODAY on Tuesday, Bush reflected on his bond with Obama after Hoda Kotb noted he's made it a point not to publicly criticize his predecessors or political rivals since leaving the White House.

When asked if he's ever been tempted to do so, Bush, 74, said it's more a matter of considering if he's ever been tempted to defend himself publicly.

"The answer is no, not really. I mean, look, I'm out," he said.

However, he added, "I guess I have been, sure."

"Anything that you can share?" Hoda asked.

"Anyone in particular? No, I think I'm fine. If I did, Michelle Obama might not be my friend," he said, chuckling.

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Obama and Bush have had a warm friendship for years.David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images

Hoda acknowledged that the unlikely friendship has captivated people.

"Isn't it so funny that something so simple can be so weird to people?" she asked.

"It really points out how bitter we've become," he said, referencing the political divide in the U.S.

Bush then recalled a memorable moment between him and Obama that instantly went viral.

"I'll never forget after (Sen. John) McCain's funeral when I gave her the candy, I think it was Jenna (Bush Hager) who said, 'Hey, Dad, you're trending.' And I said, 'I'm not sure what that means,' and it was Michelle Obama and I being friendly to each other," he said.

Bush was referencing a moment when he handed Obama a cough drop during the funeral service. In a 2018 interview with TODAY, the former first lady reflected on the moment.

"It was a simple gesture. He was getting a cough drop from Laura (Bush) and I looked over and I said, 'Hand me a cough drop,'" she said.

"I will add that they were old cough drops. That's the funny thing because they were in the little White House box," she continued. "I was like, 'How long have you had these?' He said, 'A long time. We've got a lot of these.'"

The friends reunited at the inauguration of President Joe Biden in January.Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

The pals continued the tradition at the funeral for Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush. Obama discussed the moment while on tour for her memoir, "Becoming."

"He has the presence of mind and the sense of humor to bring me a mint, and he made it a point to give me that mint right then and there, and that's the beauty of George Bush," she said.