• Video report by ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore

Former US president Barack Obama has accused some officials overseeing the American coronavirus response as not "even pretending to be in charge”.

Speaking to recent college graduates at a livestreamed event Mr Obama said the pandemic had highlighted the underlying inequalities faced by black communities.

Without naming current US president Donald Trump or any other federal or state officials during the online commencement address to graduates of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Mr Obama said: “More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” he said.

“A lot them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”

Donald Trump hit back at his predecessor's comments. “Look, he was an incompetent president, that’s all I can say. Grossly incompetent,” Mr Trump said.

As he congratulated graduates and commiserated over the difficult world they face, the former president noted the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, who was killed while jogging on a residential street in Georgia in February.

A mural of the likeness of Ahmaud Arbery in Dallas. Mr Arbery was shot by two white men while out for a jog. Credit: AP

“Let’s be honest: A disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communicates have historically had to deal with in this country,” Mr Obama said.

“We see it in the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on our communities, just as we see it when a black man goes for a jog and some folks feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit to their questioning.”

Mr Obama went on to deliver a televised prime-time commencement address for the high school Class of 2020 in which he urged the young graduates to be unafraid despite the current challenges facing the nation and to strive to be part of a diverse community.

“Leave behind all the old ways of thinking that divide us — sexism, racial prejudice, status, greed — and set the world on a different path,” he said.