Did former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama appear in a video promotion for a federal program giving out monthly $5,600 health spending cards to spend on bills, gas, groceries or "anything else you can think of"? No, that's not true: A video of Michelle Obama taken from a BBC interview has been altered with a fake voiceover that sounds like her. Not only did she not promote this program, there is no such federal program. These ads from a health insurance referral service use a misleading promise to get personal information from uninsured people.
The video appeared in a post published by the Facebook page American Aid on December 5, 2023. The post was captioned:
After years of struggling, i'm finally catching a break with this benefit.
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of the writing of this fact check:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Dec 8 17:13:09 2023 UTC)
Lead Stories emailed the office of Barack and Michelle Obama for comment, and we will update this article if we receive a reply.
Lead Stories has published several fact checks about ads purporting to offer health spending cards from a federal benefits program. Michelle Obama is not the only person whose likeness has been used to produce a false endorsement. Public figures ranging from Cardi B and Lil Wayne to Joe Biden and Joe Rogan are among the names used to mislead people into signing on with a referral service.
The scope of this fact check is about Michelle Obama's supposed involvement with this program. She has no such involvement. For more information about this type of deceptive promotion, an August 2023 Lead Stories fact check focuses on the scam. We wrote:
The companies behind such web pages typically are trying to advertise some federal assistance guidance or insurance service to users. The federal government has warned Americans that it 'does not offer "free money"' and that such claims are often scams.
The website has only existed since July 18, 2023. It contains no details about who is running it or any contact information. The page opens with a fake customer service chat that says, "Emily is online." This is not a real chat but an automated script that runs on many similar websites, such as thehealthcarecredits.com and insuredhealth.org.
Although the false voiceover suggests there is an "official link below," these websites are not associated with a government program. It is unclear who is running them.
As the spending card video opens, the first four seconds show Michelle Obama wearing a black jacket with gold embroidery. She appears to be introducing a government program for health spending cards, but this is not really her voice, which is out of sync with the film footage. The falsified voiceover continues through the 1:20-minute-long video, which features additional clips from B-roll scenes. An additional clip of Michelle Obama appears at the 51-second mark.
The narration says, in part:
Health spending cards, you've probably never heard of them, but the government is pushing them out to all Americans in need. What are they? Well, they are spending cards loaded with cash every month to spend on anything you need. Think: $5,600 to spend on bills, gas, groceries, and anything else you can think of. It's just like the stimulus checks, just easier and monthly. How easy? Just follow the official link below, fill in a quick form with just a couple of non-intrusive questions and then hop on a call with their agent to finalize the shipping. Get the card express in just a couple of days and it's all ready to go. Get spending!
A reverse image search on Google for two of the images of Michelle Obama from the video led to results (here and here) from two different past public appearances by the former first lady. These images can be seen in the composite image below.
The first image (upper left side of the composite) led to a 15-minute-long video interview (bottom left) with BBC News, which was posted on the BBC News' official YouTube channel on November 15, 2022. The video is titled "Donald Trump replacing Barack after US election 'still hurts', says Michelle Obama - BBC News." The interview was conducted remotely -- Michelle Obama appeared on a large TV screen and discussed a variety of topics, none of them about a government "Health Spending Card." Although Lead Stories was able to identify the source segment, we were unable to pinpoint the exact timestamp from which the clip used in the video on Facebook was taken.
The second clip of Obama (upper right side of the composite), used at the 0:51 mark of the video on Facebook , was taken from an appearance on "The Drew Barrymore Show," which was posted on YouTube on April 24, 2023 (bottom right). The specific clip, where Obama gestures while Barrymore holds her other hand, can be seen here in a September 28, 2023, @thedrewbarrymoreshow Instagram reel.
(Source: Lead Stories composite image with Facebook and YouTube screenshots taken on Fri Dec 08 20:34:29 2023 UTC)