Fake News: Obama Did NOT Say "He's Low Risk", Did NOT Free ISIS Leader Al Baghdadi

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fake News: Obama Did NOT Say "He's Low Risk", Did NOT Free ISIS Leader Al Baghdadi

Did Barack Obama say Abu-Bakr Al Baghdadi was "Low Risk" before releasing him? No, that's not true: for starters Obama did not release him and secondly 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 Obama Watcher on October 29, 2019 titled "'He's Low Risk,' Said Obama Before Freeing ISIS Leader Al Baghdadi" (archived here) which opened:

It is all over the internet now that, back in '04, Barack Obama was responsible for the release of the man who would become the sole leader of terrorist organization ISIS from Aloo Paneer Prison. Abu Bzr Al Baghdad was one of of 652 ISIS fighters set free by the former president, and after his release he resumed his position as the Grand Dragon of ISIL, and waged a horrific terror war on thousands for the next 15 years. His managerial career would have continued much longer had President Trump not jumped into the fray to fix yet another of Obama's screw-ups by sending in a covert team to raid the man's fortress.

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

'He's Low Risk,' Said Obama Before Freeing ISIS Leader Al Baghdadi

It is all over the internet now that, back in '04, Barack Obama was responsible for the release of the man who would become the sole leader of terrorist organization ISIS from Aloo Paneer Pri...

As the story (correctly) indicates, Al Baghdadi was indeed released from U.S. custody in 2004. As the story also noted:

George W. Bush was the last Republican President from 2000-2008. He never would have let a terrorist walk free.

That's about the extent of the real facts in the article, which was published under the category "Barack Obama Fan Fiction" on a page with multiple satire warnings and disclaimers. The "Aloo Paneer Prison" does not exist and the title "Grand Dragon of ISIL" seems to be more of a mockery of the KKK than a real ISIL rank.

The story criticizes the widely spread conspiracy theory that Barack Obama released Al Baghdadi from GitMo prison, a story previously debunked by Lead Stories here:

Fake News: Barack Obama Did NOT Free Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi From GitMo And Return Him To The Middle East | Lead Stories

Hoax Alert Did President Barack Obama free ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi from GitMo, return him to the middle east, and allow the ISIS leader into Syria? No, that's not true: Al-Baghdadi was freed from an Iraqi prison after several months in U.S. military custody during President George W.

The site ObamaWatcher 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":

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 obamawatcher.com 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 obamawatcher.com before, here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

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  Maarten Schenk

Maarten Schenk is the co-founder and COO/CTO of Lead Stories and an 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.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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