By: Praveen Kumar
July 6 2023
Michelle Obama’s mother is alive, and the story about her will is fake. The viral TikTok video uses a digitally altered image of Michelle Obama.
A screenshot of an article with the headline “Michelle Obama’s Mother Dies, Leaves Inheritance to ‘My Son Michael’” and an image of a young Barack Obama with his arm over the shoulder of what appears to be a man resembling Michelle is being shared on TikTok with the in-video text “Are you awake yet…?” and the caption “Say hello to “Big Mike”.....”
This is part of a recurring false narrative that claims Michelle Obama was born biologically male. The article is untrue, and the images are fake.
This article was published on the now-deleted website Obamawatcher.com. The archived version of the article shows that it was available online in October 2019. The website's “About us” page states that it is a satirical website and that all its content is fictional. “Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real… 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,” the page says.
This fictional story about Michelle and her mother has been shared and republished by many fringe websites, propagating the conspiracy theory about the former’s sex.
Apart from the fictional details, one discrepancy we noticed in this article is Michelle Obama’s mother’s name. The article mentions it as Mary McGillicuddy Robinson, but her actual name is Marian Shields Robinson. She is alive, and there are no credible news stories about her death or will. She does have a son named Craig Robinson, who is the Executive Director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Further, the image of the Obamas featured in the TikTok video has been edited to make Michelle appear to be a man. We found the original version of the photo, shared by former U.S. President Barack Obama on Twitter and Instagram on January 17, 2019. It was posted with the caption, “I knew it way back then and I’m absolutely convinced of it today - you’re one of a kind, @MichelleObama. Happy Birthday!” In this image of the young couple, Michelle does not have close-cropped hair as in the edited image but appears to have her hair back brushed into a bun, is very obviously wearing large hoop earrings, and has more feminine features than in the viral image.
This image from Obama’s official Twitter and Instagram is the oldest version we could find online. The edited version of the image is grainier than the one posted by Obama.
Further, we tested the gender swap options in the photo editing app FaceApp. We produced a similar result to the image shown in the TikTok video, indicating that Michelle’s image could have been edited using a similar app.
There are also several pictures of Michelle from her childhood and youth available openly on the web, all of which debunk the claim that she used to be a male. She has several such images on her Instagram, like one posted in May 2018 with part of the caption reading, “This is me at Princeton in the early 1980s.”
An edited image of Michelle Obama posing with Barack Obama and a fake article from a satirical website pushes the recurring false narrative that Michelle Obama used to be a man who underwent a sex change. Therefore, we have marked this claim false.