Just Because It's Trending Doesn't Mean It's True
Hoax Alert

Fake News: It's NOT Official, Michelle Obama NOT Running For President

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Sun, 20 Oct 2019 09:30:45 Z)

Is Michelle Obama running for president and is it official now? No, that's not true. The story was published by a liberal satire website that tries to mislead Trump supporters and Republicans into sharing made up stories that are clearly marked as satire when you actually click them. Articles from the site are frequently copied by foreign-run fake news websites. The people liking and sharing these stories are enriching foreign website operators (or a liberal from Maine) via the ad revenue generated with the content which is probably not what they expected or wanted.

The story originated from an article published by bustatroll.org on October 20, 2019 titled "It's Official: Michelle Obama Running For President" (archived here) which opened:

For months now, there has been speculation of a surprise candidate that would emerge from the Democrats in the race for the White House. Now it seems she has revealed herself. Michelle Obama is expected to make the formal announcement of her intention to run on Monday morning.

The announcement comes as no surprise to many. Mrs Obama has hinted for years of her desire to join her husband in politics. She sees her family as being "destined" in some way to lead America and says "Not doing so would be a disservice to the citizens."

Screenshot of https://bustatroll.org/2019/10/19/its-official-michelle-obama-running-for-president/

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

It's Official: Michelle Obama Running For President

For months now, there has been speculation of a surprise candidate that would emerge from the Democrats in the race for the White House. Now it seems she has revealed herself. Michelle Obama is exp...

But the story was posted in a category that read "Satire and/or Conservative Fan Fiction" and it had a picture of two puppies with this caption: "Puppy shots in all my satirical stories." In addition to that there were several other satire warnings and logos scattered on the page and website. The footer of the page literally explains the goal of the site is trolling conservatives: "COPYRIGHT 1776-2197 BY PAID LIBERAL TROLLS OF AMERICA".

Michelle Obama has indicated in the past there is "zero chance" she'll make a run for president:

Michelle Obama: 'There's zero chance' I run for president

Former first lady Michelle Obama is pouring cold water on calls for her to run for president, saying she believes there are other ways for her to help the country.

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.

Here is a video of Blair explaining how his process works:

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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