Altered Christmas Photo of Michelle Obama Promotes False Conspiracy Theory

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Claim:

An old Christmas picture of Michelle Obama with cropped hair and masculine features standing with her future husband, Barack Obama, is an authentic photograph of the future first lady.

On July 2, 2024, X user @TRobinsonNewEra posted (archived) a dated, doctored picture showing former U.S. President Barack Obama with his arm around his future wife, Michelle, in their younger days, standing next to a Christmas tree.

By sharing the altered photo, this user and other users promoted the false, long-running online conspiracy theory claiming the former first lady was born male and given the name “Michael.” In reality, Michelle Obama was born female with the name Michelle LaVaughn Robinson.

This picture of Barack and Michelle Obama was doctored to give Michelle male features and pushed the debunked conspiracy theory that her name is Michael.

Reverse-image searches for the fake picture displayed recent results on X, as well as numerous past reposts on Imgflip, TikTok, Truth Social and other websites.

Wanda Freeman Barzizza, the wife of a formal mayoral candidate for the city of Germantown, Tennessee, also at least once posted (archived) the fake photo. We previously reported several times about the fact that Barzizza spent years sharing misleading information. Her account also received multiple month-long suspensions in the past, based on both the long gaps in time between posts and admissions made on her own public feed.

A Reddit post claims an unidentified photographer captured the original, undoctored picture of the Obamas on Christmas Day in 1991. No ring appears on the future Michelle Obama’s hand in the photo.

It’s unclear where the doctored version of the Christmas picture originated. If we find this out, we’ll update this story in the future.

Sources

Barzizza, Wanda Freeman. Facebook. 5 Oct. 2022, https://www.facebook.com/wbarzizza/.

CurrentRoster. “Barack and Michelle Obama, Christmas Day (1991).” r/OldSchoolCool via Reddit.com, 25 Dec. 2021, www.reddit.com/r/OldSchoolCool/.

“Did Michelle Obama’s Mother Leave an Inheritance to ‘My Son Michael’?” Snopes.com, 22 Oct. 2019, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/michelle-obama-inheritance/.

Evon, Dan. “Snopes Tips: A Guide To Performing Reverse Image Searches.” Snopes.com, 22 Mar. 2022, https://www.snopes.com/articles/400681/how-to-perform-reverse-image-searches/.

“Michelle and Barack’s Christmas in Hawaii.” Snakkle, https://snakkle.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/michelle-obama-barack-christmas-GC.jpg.

Peyser, Eve. “The Long, Strange Conservative Obsession with Obama’s Sexuality.” Vice, 16 Feb. 2018, https://www.vice.com/en/article/3k7vd5/why-does-the-right-think-obama-is-gay.

TinEye Reverse Image Search. https://tineye.com/.

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