Did the mother of Michelle Obama, former first lady of the United States, leave her inheritance to a son named "Michael Robinson Obama," insinuating that "Michael" is Michelle Obama's real name? No, that's not true: The claim was made on a website that described itself as satirical.
Although the claim originated on a now-defunct satirical website called Obama Watcher, it reappeared in a post on Instagram on May 27, 2023, with no indication that the material originated on a satire site. The post included a video with out-of-context screenshots from a 2019 Snopes article that debunks the "Michael" claim - - except the screenshots are not attributed to Snopes and are arranged in a way that reinforces the bogus claim. The first few screenshots featured in the video, with the second and third being direct quotes from the Obama Watcher article that Snopes referenced, read:
Did Michelle Obama's Mother Leave an Inheritance to 'My Son Michael'?
'Mrs. Robinson's will clearly states that her possessions should all go to "my son, Michael Robinson Obama." In Illinois, a person can't legally change their gender, so she had to use his real name or she wouldn't have gotten anything.'
Michelle Obama's mother, Mary McGillicuddy Robinson, has died at the age of 84. She went peacefully in her sleep before being mostly devoured by her Lhasa Apso, and Chicago police have ruled out any foul play. The real story, however, is how she worded her Last Will and Testament. According to Illinois Comptroller and Keeper of the Public Record, Art Tubolls, 'Michelle' doesn't legally exist:
This is how the post looked on Instagram at the time of writing:
The post relies on almost entirely made-up information and does not inform other Instagram users that the claim originated from a satirical website. Michelle Obama's mother's name is not Mary McGillicuddy Robinson, but Marian Shields Robinson -- and she is not dead at the time of writing. While Michelle Obama does have a brother named Craig Robinson, that is her only sibling. Additionally, contrary to the text in the claim, Illinois -- Michelle Obama's state of birth -- does allow people to change their gender on their birth certificate, although they must submit an "Affidavit and Certificate of Correction Request" form and a "Declaration of Gender Transition/Intersex Condition" form.
Lead Stories has previously debunked other claims about Michelle Obama's gender including bogus assertions that her doctor went on record to claim she is male and that she registered to vote as a man.
As seen in an archived version of Obamawatcher, the site comes with a clear satire disclaimer on its "About Us" page:
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.
The owner and main writer of the site was Christopher Blair, a self-professed liberal from Maine who for years has run networks of websites set up to troll conservatives with made-up news items in order to get them to share his posts. He often goes by the nickname "Busta Troll." A 2018 BBC profile called Blair "the Godfather of fake news," describing him as "one of the world's most prolific writers of disinformation."
His websites usually have multiple satire disclaimers and the stories very often contain obvious hints they are not real, like category names indicating they are fiction, links to "sources" that instead go to funny or offensive images or an "S for Satire" logo added to the images used as illustration. Another telltale sign is the name "Art Tubolls" (anagram for "Busta Troll") for characters in the stories. Blair also frequently pays homage to two of his friends who passed away by using their names ("Joe Barron" and "Sandy Batt") in stories.
Blair's stories have been widely copied by spammy, foreign website networks trying to make a buck by spamming American conservatives with clickbait headlines.
Here you can find some of the many, many stories from Blair's websites Lead Stories debunked over the years.