Chain of Lies: The Resurrection of Email Slander Against Michelle Obama

Aug 20 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Another lie, resurrected by the Right. Yes, it’s election time which means your inbox will soon be full of those charming chain emails conservatives are so fond of sending, but so incapable of fact-checking themselves.

Today, I got the Michelle Obama salary chain of lies from 2009. They don’t even feel it necessary to find new lies, apparently. Just this past week, they rolled out the stale, debunked, and ignored “Reverend Wright” and “pallin’ around” and “He doesn’t love his country” again, even though he is…..President. The President who got Osama. Clearly the epistemic closure of Fox News is impacting their messaging ability.

When I have time, I compose a rebuttal email, which I send using the “Reply ALL” button. I have a friend who always adds in one stray person from his address book for good measure, to show the conservatives up for their tactics. It seems these conservatives have no shame, for never once have I had one of them reply back to me to apologize for slander or wasting my time.

Some of them are even business associates of mine who have sent me the chain of lies. On these occasions, after having my request to be taken off their list ignored, I have cc’d our other colleagues in my reply to subsequent emails. After I’ve spent my time debunking a chain of lies and sending it on, only to be told the same lie again by the same person, I realized the time for good social graces was over.

It’s important to shun and shame such tactics when they are done deliberately, and with knowledge of the lie. My thinking is that if they feel these lies are worth forwarding to recipients who have explicitly asked to be removed from their list, then they must want to own those lies in a public forum. So be it, as I have a memory like an elephant. Another ways of accomplishing this is to post the rebuttal on Facebook, addressing the email sender in public. If enough people did this, conservatives might bother to factcheck these chains of lies before they passed them on.

Today I was sent the “Michelle Obama’s 300,000 salary and earmarks” scandal email. Sadly for the sender, I had some free time. My reply:

Re the slanderous chain email I just received re Michelle Obama’s salary, here are the facts. They were found easily and within one second of a Google search, so I don’t understand why the author of this chain email and the conservatives who forward it are unable to check their facts before smearing innocent people. Is this part of the “lamestream media”? Are they persecuting a good Christian woman, lying about their neighbor and bearing false witness about the wife of the President? You betcha.

Here are the facts courtesy of FactCheck.org (note: I am prepared for you conservative conspiracy propagators to claim that FactCheck is a liberal organization, for this is your answer to everything that you can’t rebut with facts — shame on you! Go read the sources provided and reply to all with citations and links of/to the errors or apologize already):

Q:Did Michelle Obama make $317,000 a year while working part-time at the University of Chicago Medical Center?

A: This allegation in a chain e-mail is wrong: Obama’s reported income was $103,633 in 2007, the year she reduced her work schedule to part time.

The anonymous author of this chain e-mail expands upon an opinion piece from the conservative National Review and gets the facts wrong in the process.

On Jan. 9, 2009, the University of Chicago Medical Center officially announced that Michelle Obama had resigned from her post as vice president for community and external affairs to join her husband, then-President-elect Barack Obama, in the White House as the new first lady of the United States.

Michelle Obama had been promoted in 2005 to vice president for community and external affairs after three years as the executive director for community affairs. It’s true, as the e-mail (and National Review column) says, that she received a sizable pay raise that year. She went from earning $121,910 in 2004 as an executive director at the hospital to making $316,962 in 2005 as a vice president, according to tax returns filed by the Obamas for those years. But the suggestion made by the email’s author – and not made by the National Review – that she was being paid more than $300,000 for a “20 hour a week job” is not true.

University of Chicago Medical Center spokesman John Easton said Mrs. Obama didn’t reduce her work schedule from full time to part time until 2007 when it became clear that her husband would run for president. “As she reduced her hours, beginning early in 2007, her salary decreased proportionately,” Easton told us in an e-mail. “She switched to half time shortly before her husband formally announced his campaign, then to 20% later that year and to 0% in 2008.”

A significant portion of the text in this chain e-mail is a reproduction of part of a column that appeared in the Feb. 9 issue of National Review; the New York Post also ran part of the magazine’s “The Week” piece on Jan. 24. (The portion of the column reprinted in this e-mail ends with the comment about Roland Burris’ wife.) It’s worth noting that the column makes some implications about Michelle Obama’s former job that are more speculation than fact.

The column implies that her “networking” was what caused her then-senator husband to request a “$1 million earmark for the UC Medical Center” back in 2006. But that’s unsubstantiated also. He did request the funds for the “construction of a new hospital pavilion” at the University of Chicago, but both Obama and hospital officials denied that the request was influenced by his wife’s position. And during the campaign, Obama’s aides were quick to point out that the request was one of many projects that the former senator made in 2005 and 2006 that were killed by Congress.

Read more if you dare, and take me off of your list of chain email lies, for I don’t want to be associated with such filth. I would appreciate a sincere apology for spreading lies via Reply All. If you aren’t capable of self-policing (odd for a free marketer, no?), you will force me to do it for you, in public.

Sarah Jones

The conservatives who argue that “job creators” are entitled to 12 million dollar bonuses paid for by the people via Bush bailouts and stimulus money untethered to job creation (thanks to the Republican demands to remove that language from the plan) are against Michelle Obama, a Princeton University and Harvard Law School graduate, using the free market to sell her talents to the highest bidder and receive a signing bonus for her mad skills and prestigious degrees.

So, conservatives are for a meritocracy and the free market until one of the people makes those principles work for herself via hard work and scholarships (hello — American exceptionalism walking). Now, what exactly is the problem with Michelle Obama earning money again? Maybe it’s because conservatives can’t imagine a First Lady who has actually worked in the free market successfully. Or maybe it’s because she is not the picture of success of American exceptionalism that they were taught. She is, however, the embodiment of the American Dream, so it’s understandable that they want to smear her and with her, kill the American Dream.

The conservatives resort to things like this because they have nothing else. It’s pathetic, creepy and morally repugnant. The same people who send you this will send you whining screeds about “keeping the families out of it”, never admitting to themselves that it was candidate Barack Obama who asked the media to leave Sarah Palin’s children out of it in 2008. And they clearly feel that it’s their business to smear the First Lady with desperate lies, the use of which ironically spit in the face of their other sacred beliefs about American exceptionalism and the free market.

I understand that conservatives now consider an education worthless, and they love them a screeching, lying demagogue who didn’t even go to college, but out in the Real World of the free market, education matters and it earns a degree of financial reward when applying for jobs. That may be because for the rest of American employers, incompetence is not a plus, whereas for the Republican Party these days, incompetence is a must (See Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Sarah Palin, Scott Walker, etc).

The modern day conservative stands for nothing but lies. This is what happens when extremists hijack a party. It has happened to the Democratic Party in the past and now it’s happening to the Republicans. Their brand is mud, slime and lies. Where are the real fiscal conservatives supposed to go? Unless they are willing to sell their soul to the devil, this is what they are associated with.

There are still reasonable, moderate Republicans who are not operating from a base of hate and demagoguery. It is important that we distinguish between the two, while at the same time, not allowing the lies to spread and dominate our political debates.

I urge Republicans who do not condone this type of behavior to speak up and reclaim your party from the Dominionists and the Koch Brothers, or at the very least, to research the origins of the hate your party is being branded with, for the sake of this great country as well as your own personal honor. After all, the origins of this particular email are so repulsive that it took a while to find a place I could, in good conscience, link to.

It’s not a lot to ask that if you forward an email, you stand behind it. And if you stand behind lies, you should be prepared to be shamed for it. It’s not our fault that you believe everything Fox News tells you.

34 responses so far