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Hoax Alert

Fake News: Malia Obama Did NOT Cash $1.2 million 'Tax Refund' Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Thu, 20 Jun 2019 13:26:28 Z)

Did Malia Obama cash a $1.2 million tax refund check? No, that's not true. The story was published by a liberal satire website that tries to educate gullible Trump supporters and Republicans about the need to actually click and read links before sharing or liking them in order to avoid being embarrassed by fans of the site later. All the events described in the article are not real.

The story originated from an article published on BustaTroll.org on June 3, 2019 titled "Malia Obama Cashes $1.2 million 'Tax Refund' Check" (archived here). The entire article read:

Malia Obama cashed a check for 1.2 mill. Where the heck did she get it?

According to one person, she must have stolen it. According to someone else, she must have sold stuff she stole from the White House. And another guy thinks she probably sells drugs.

Screenshot of https://bustatroll.org/2019/06/03/malia-obama-cashes-1-2-million-tax-refund-check/

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Malia Obama Cashes $1.2 million 'Tax Refund' Check

The truth is right there in front of you.

The story was published under the category "Satire and/or Conservative Fan Fiction" and it is so ridiculously lacking in sources and rich in satire disclaimers it should be obvious to anybody but the biggest idot that it is made up.

That didn't stop a Macedonian fake news site from stealing the article though:

Malia Obama Cashe $1.2 million Tax Refund Check - Oregon News Press

Malia Obama cashed a check for 1.2 mill. Where the heck did she get it? According to one person, she must have stolen it. According to someone else, she must have sold stuff she stole from the White House. And another guy thinks she probably sells drugs.

Hat tip to Sarah Thompson for spotting this one:

The site BustaTroll.org is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites run byself-professed liberal troll Christopher Blair from Maine along with a loose confederation of friends and allies. Blair has been in a feud with fact checking website Snopes for some time now and has also criticized other fact checkers in the past who labeled his work "fake news" instead of satire. In reaction to this he has recently rebranded all his active websites and Facebook pages so they carry extremely visible disclaimers everywhere.

Every site in the network has an about page that reads (in part):

About Satire
Before you complain and decide satire is synonymous with "comedy":

sat·ire
ˈsaˌtī(ə)r
noun
The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site's pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical. See above if you're still having an issue with that satire thing.

Articles from Blair's sites frequently get copied by "real" fake news sites who often omit the satire disclaimer and any other hints the stories are fake. Blair has tried to get these sites shut down in the past but new ones keep cropping up.

Blair and his operation were profiled by the Washington Post on November 17, 2018 by Eli Saslow:

'Nothing on this page is real': How lies become truth in online America

November 17 The only light in the house came from the glow of three computer monitors, and Christopher Blair, 46, sat down at a keyboard and started to type. His wife had left for work and his children were on their way to school, but waiting online was his other community, an unreality where nothing was exactly as it seemed.

If you are interested in learning more about Blair and the history of his sites, here is something to get you started:

The Ultimate Christopher Blair and America's Last Line of Defense Reading List | Lead Stories

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below. Yesterday Eli Saslow at the Washington Post wrote a fantastic article about Christopher Blair, a man from Maine who has been trolling conservatives and Trump supporters online for years and occasionally even made a living out of it.

If you see one of his stories on a site that does not contain a satire disclaimer, assume it is fake news. If you do see the satire disclaimer it is of course also fake news.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes bustatroll.org as:

A site that publishes false stories and hoaxes that are often mistaken for real news, part of a network named America's Last Line of Defense run by hoax perpetrator Christopher Blair.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

We wrote about bustatroll.org before, here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

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About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

About Lead Stories

Lead Stories uses the Trendolizer™ engine to detect the most trending stories from known fake news, satire and prank websites and tries to debunk them as fast as possible. Read more about how we work and how we select stories to check here.

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