Was Malia Obama busted selling priceless White House trinkets that she stole while she lived there? 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, and that happened with this one, too. One of the copycats has racked up over 180,000 engagements on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle data. 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 claim originated from an article (archived here) where it was published by Daily World Update on April 15, 2019, under the title "Malia Obama Busted Selling Priceless White House Trinkets She Stole While Living There". It opened:
A multi-state investigation in cooperation with the White House Historical Artifact Enforcement Division of the Secret Service is about to conclude with the indictment of Malia Obama, according to our sources. Larry and Bob, two guys working inside the task force, spent more than three months tracking down artifacts being sold at exclusive auction houses and online black market dealers. According to Larry:
"We found a trail of illegal sales of White House trinkets starting in about April of 2017. In the past two years, we linked those items to reports of missing historical pieces reported by White House staff during the Obama administration. All of the pieces are small enough to be smuggled out."
The story was posted under a category named "Malia Obama's Satirical Criminal Tendencies", and the site that originally posted the article had several satire disclaimers and logos. In addition to that, the words "black market dealers" in the original post were linked to a Google translate link that showed the Spanish translation of this little inside joke:
Why are there no "white market" dealers. Wait...is "black market" actually a racist term used to imply that anything run by blacks is inherently evil? It's almost like asking for Jimmies on your ice cream in 2019, right New Englanders?
The trinkets supposedly stolen included a 13th-century Albanian teapot, Nancy Reagan's yoga pants and Abraham Lincoln's bedpan, according to the Daily World Update spoof story.
The site is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites run by self-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):
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 that 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.
Ajuanews.com got over 180,000 Facebook engagements out of the story, almost 100,000 more than the original on Daily World Update.
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:
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 dailyworldupdate.us as:
A news site that publishes false stories and hoaxes that are often mistaken for real news. The site is part of a network 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 dailyworldupdate.us before. Here are our most recent articles that mention the site:
- Fake News: Clarence Thomas Did NOT Say SCOTUS Is Ready To 'Crush The Coup Against President Trump'
- Fake News: Justice Roberts Does NOT Call Impeachment Vote 'Immoral And Possibly Illegal'
- Fake News: Nancy Pelosi Did NOT Approve $4.8 Million In 'Impeachment Consulting Fees' To Clinton Foundation
- Fake News: Greta Thunberg Has NOT Been Lying To The World About Her Age
- Fake News: Whoopi Goldberg Did NOT Call Melania's Decorations: 'Fairly Racist'