Fact Check: Harvard Did NOT Admit Michelle Obama's Degrees Are Fakes

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fact Check: Harvard Did NOT Admit Michelle Obama's Degrees Are Fakes Trolling

Did Harvard University admit the degrees held by former first lady Michelle Obama are fakes? 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 first appeared as an article published by Obama Watcher on March 14, 2020, titled "Harvard Admits Michelle Obama's Degrees Are Fakes" (archived here) which opened:

Supposedly, Michelle Obama attended both Harvard and Princeton Universities for her degrees before becoming a lawyer and professor. It was bafflement for many on how the former first "lady" obtained such high ranking degrees.

Now the truth is finally coming to light. She didn't. Senior Manager of Housing for both universities, Sandy Batts, said in a statement/

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

Harvard Admits Michelle Obama's Degrees Are Fakes

Good!

There is no Manager of Housing named "Sandy Batts" and the words "Manager of Housing" linked to an image named "Hang Loose" on giphy. "Sandy Batts" is a name frequently used in stories published on sites in the network of which Obama Watcher is a part.

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 rebranded all his active websites and Facebook pages so they carry 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 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.

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 journalists 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.

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  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder 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

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