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Chain email
stated on June 26, 2012 in a message forwarded to many people:
Says "a lip-reading instructor at the River School, a Washington, D.C., school for the deaf" has determined that during 9/11 ceremonies, Michelle Obama said, "All this for a damn flag."
true pants-fire
Bill Adair
By Bill Adair June 26, 2012

Chain email says River School lip-reading instructor confirms first lady Michelle Obama said "All this for a damn flag" at 9/11 ceremonies

Authors of chain emails love to question President Barack Obama's patriotism.

They've said he refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance (False), that he "turns his back to the flag and slouches" (False), and that he complained that U.S. troops were whining about going to war. (Pants on Fire).

(We are not including the claim that Obama fits the biblical description of the Antichrist, since it's theoretically possible that you could be the Antichrist and still be patriotic.)

We've also noticed a sub-genre of emails that attack First Lady Michelle Obama for living a life of luxury, such as the claim that she ordered $400 worth of caviar and lobster at the Waldorf Astoria in New York (Pants on Fire).

Now comes a new twist on a claim that sprouted a year ago in the conservative blogosphere: the suggestion that during 9/11 memorial ceremonies, the first lady could be seen saying to her husband, "All this for a damn flag."

The controversy has been fueled by video that shows the first lady saying something to her husband. Because the comments are not audible, critics of the Obamas have speculated about her words. On YouTube, a video that has been seen 1.4 million times slows the exchange and declares the first lady said, "All this for a damn flag" and that the president replied "Hm … mn …. nnnn" and gave a "nod of disapproval."

The Blaze, Glenn Beck's website, invited readers to do their own lip reading and speculate what they thought Michelle Obama was saying. The results of the 38,706 votes:


"All this for a damn flag." 49 percent "Look at how they fold that damn flag." 5 "Look at how they fold that flag." 22 Something else, but I'm not sure. 7 Come on, there's no way to tell. 17


Featured Fact-check

The new email, which emerged about one month ago, indicates Michelle Obama's words have been confirmed by "a lip-reading instructor at the River School, a Washington school for the deaf."

Here's the full email (it has two subject lines because senders added a second line when forwarding it)::

Subject:  Obama's wife - Caught in the Act

You be the judge,  
How much more disrespect can there be?

Subject: Obama's wife as seen by deaf people

Obama and his wife were attending The 9/11 Memorial Ceremony and watched as the Color Guard folded the flag into a triangular shape, according to custom.

A video camera caught the two from the sidelines.  Obama's wife leaned over and said to him, "All this for a damn flag?"  Obama turned to her, smiled smugly and nodded his head in agreement.

How do we know what was said? The video was presented for translation to a lip reading instructor at The River School, a Washington D.C. school for the deaf.

The video is shown at normal speed, 3/4 speed, and 1/2 speed with no banners obstructing her lips.  

The current Commander and Chief and the First Lady proud of being American? You be the judge...

Like many chain emails, this one has evolved since earlier versions. The detail about the lip-reading instructor at the River School was added recently, presumably to give the email more credibility.

But that credibility crumbled when we spoke with Nancy Mellon, director of the River School. She described it as a Washington school that serves a wide range of children from 18 months to third grade. It is known for its strong program for hearing-impaired children, but they account for just 15 percent of the students.

More importantly, the River School doesn't teach lip-reading, Mellon said, and no one from the faculty has provided any interpretation of the video.

"It's definitely not us," she said. "We would never try to do anything like this."

The school has gotten so many inquiries about the chain email that last week it posted this message on its website:

Please be advised that The River School was not involved in any translation services for a recent video clip currently circulating on the Internet.

So what did she really say? The consensus on All Deaf, a website for people who are hearing impaired, was that she said, "It's amazing how they fold that flag." (However, one person speculated that she told her husband, "This is the third time this week you left your underwear on the floor... I ain't your mother.")

Our ruling

Like many chain emails we've checked, this one is so flimsy that it needs to fabricate its credibility. Critics of Obama are free to speculate about the first lady's words, but the "damn flag" translation was not done by anyone at the River School.

So we give this one a nod of disapproval -- and a Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

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More by Bill Adair

Chain email says River School lip-reading instructor confirms first lady Michelle Obama said "All this for a damn flag" at 9/11 ceremonies

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