Fact Check: Is the misgendered photo of Michelle Obama with Barack Obama real? Viral post debunked

An altered misgendered photo of Barack Obama is making rounds on the Internet (Image via Twitter/@iluminatibot, @BarackObama)
An altered misgendered photo of Barack Obama is making rounds on the Internet (Image via Twitter/@iluminatibot, @BarackObama)

Suspicion about Michelle Obama's gender is the latest in the long list of conspiracies shared by the popular Twitter account @iluminatibot. On Sunday, June 18, the account shared a photo of Michelle Obama and Barack Obama standing side by side with the caption, "If you know, you know". The post speculated that the image shared showcased Michelle looking like a man.

However, this is completely false because the post shared by @iluminatibot was an altered image. An original photo was modified and made unclear to make it look like Michelle Obama had male features. A Twitter context note under the post stated that the image was altered and confirmed that the original picture was taken from a tweet by the former president in 2019, wishing his wife a happy birthday.

The fake tweet, which amassed over 10 million views, enraged Twitter users. The comments section underneath the post was filled with users calling out the account for promoting fake news. The post somehow even managed to anger conspiracy theorists, who called it a loss of credibility for the account, and people who did not like Barack Obama, who lambasted the account for the circulation of fake news.

The altered Michelle Obama image has been in circulation for years

The original photo was posted on former US First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama's birthday on January 17, 2019, by the official Twitter handle of former US President Barack Obama. In the tweet, which received over 1.2 million likes, Barack Obama wished his wife a happy birthday by stating that she was "one of a kind."

Barack Obama also posted the same image with the same caption on Instagram. The post amassed over 5 million likes on the platform.

This was not the first time that the same image was altered and circulated. Back in 2021, the Instagram account @gunsbeerliberty posted a similarly altered version of the same picture with a text overlay that said, "JUST 2 DUDES, BEFORE THEY WERE HUSBAND AND WIFE." The post was flagged as false information by Instagram.

In 2020, yet another altered version of the image was posted on Facebook by Open Range Cowboy Church Trail Boss, Michael Reeves. Reeves captioned the post, "Barry & Michael back in the day...". The image, which was shared over 400 times, was flagged as altered by Facebook.

Reverse image searches proved that this image was altered. Alterations include a change in skin tone, an increase in saturation, and distortion and warp effects on Michelle Obama's face and neck.

Last year, around the time of Barack and Michelle Obama's 30th anniversary, another altered image spread across social media, claiming that Michelle Obama was a man. The image was posted on Facebook by Wansa Freeman Barizza, wife of John Barizza, a former Germantown, Tennessee, mayoral candidate.

The image was significantly altered to make Michelle look like a man. The original image was posted on Twitter and Instagram on Christmas Day, 2014, by the then-first lady.

According to a Reddit post and the Internet Archive's Way Back Machine, the image dates back to 1991, when Barack and Michelle Obama spent their Christmas in Hawaii.

Twitter account, @illuminatibot, posts yet another Obama-related conspiracy

@illuminatibot, who has over 800,000 Twitter followers, is famous for an abundance of conspiracy theory-based posts. The account's bio reads,

"The Illuminati, The NWO, The Occult, Esotericism, Symbolism, Truth. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases."

This is not the last time that the account has posted a conspiracy relating to Obama. The very next day after the aforementioned post, the account posted an alleged image of Obama dressed as Baphomet, complete with silver horns.

Users claimed that the image was false, as the outfit was worn by New York real estate agent Michel Madie to a Burning Man festival in 2015.

The post had amassed over 950,000 views at the time of writing.

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Edited by Somava