Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke August 24, 2023

Supposed recording of Obama reacting to chef’s death isn’t authentic

If Your Time is short

  • This recording isn’t authentic. We found no evidence that the wife of the late Tafari Campbell, personal chef to the Obama family, blamed the former president for her husband’s death. 

The recent drowning death of Tafari Campbell, the Obama family’s personal chef, was ruled an accident. State police have said former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama weren’t home when Campbell was seen struggling in the water July 23 while paddleboarding near the family’s Martha’s Vineyard summer home off the Massachusetts coast. But conspiracy theories have abounded in the weeks since. 

Among the false claims PolitiFact has investigated: that Campbell suffered blunt force trauma, that the Obamas used their own coroner for his autopsy, that he drowned in 3 to 4 feet of water, and that the 911 call for Campbell was delayed. 

An Aug. 22 Facebook post now claims an audio recording features Barack Obama reacting to Campbell’s widow, Sherise Campbell, blaming the former president for her husband’s death. 

"Barrack Obama reacts to chef’s wife blaming him for the d*ath of her husband Talafi Cambell," the post says, misspelling several names. 

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of Tafari Campbell who was not just an employee but a valued member of our extended family," says a voice that sounds similar to Obama’s but overly robotic. "My heart goes out to Sherise and their twin sons during this unimaginably difficult time. It’s essential to understand the profound pain Sherise is going through and I respect the grieving process."

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Featured Fact-check

We found no evidence that Obama said this. There are no news stories or other credible sources quoting this alleged statement. We also found nothing to signal that Campbell’s wife has blamed Obama for Campbell’s death. 

On the Instagram account of her baking and catering business, she wrote: "My heart is broken. My life and our family’s life is forever changed. Please pray for our families as I deal with the loss of my husband."

Obama, meanwhile, said in an Aug. 3 Instagram post that Campbell "showed us what true character looks like."

"He believed that actions speak louder than words," the post said. "And he used his immense gifts to bring people together, provide comfort, and spread joy. I’ll miss him every day." 

Michelle Obama said in an Instagram post from the same day: "I will miss my friend, Tafari…the emptiness is hard. But I promise to stay strong, keep living, and honor your legacy in every way possible. Rest in peace, my brother." 

We rate claims this Facebook post features a recording of Obama reacting to allegations he was to blame for Campbell’s death False.


Our Sources

Facebook post, Aug. 22, 2023

PolitiFact, Fact-checking conspiracy theories about death of Obamas’ personal chef, Aug. 2, 2023

The New York Times, Drowning Death of Obama Family Chef Is Ruled an Accident, Aug. 22, 2023

New York Post, Wife of drowned Obama family chef Tafari Campbell shares tribute: ‘My heart is broken,’ July 25, 2023

Sherise Campbell Instagram post, Aug. 24, 2023

Barack Obama Instagram post, Aug. 23, 2023

Michelle Obama Instagram post, Aug. 23, 2023

New York Post, Obamas mourn their chef and ‘friend’ Tafari Campbell who drowned while paddleboarding: ‘Miss him every day,’ Aug. 4, 2023


Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Ciara O'Rourke

Supposed recording of Obama reacting to chef’s death isn’t authentic

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up