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Conspiracy theories about Michelle Obama’s gender spread on Twitter


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Conspiracy theories about Michelle Obama’s gender spread on Twitter


Twitter users and websites claim a voter document from the US state of Illinois and a photo of Michelle Obama prove the former first lady is actually a man. This is false; the image is altered, and the Illinois State Board of Elections said it did not produce the purported voter record shared online.

“What happened to Michael LaVaughn Robinson AKA Big Mike?” says a June 14, 2023 tweet from Simon Goddek, whose account was previously suspended for spreading misinformation about Covid-19.

The post includes two photos of Barack and Michelle Obama, one recent and one older.

Conspiracy theories about Michelle Obama's gender spread on Twitter

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Claims that Michelle Obama is a man have found traction online for years. In 2021, AFP debunked an image of her necklace that was altered to read “Mike” instead of “vote.”

The picture recently shared online is similarly doctored — Barack Obama posted the original version on Instagram in 2019.

The unaltered photo also appears in “Becoming,” a 2020 Netflix documentary based on Michelle Obama’s memoir of the same name.

A reverse image search indicates the altered version stems from The People’s Voice, a website that has previously published misinformation.

“Michelle Obama Registered To Vote As a Man In 1994 According To Illinois State Board of Elections,” says the headline of a July 22, 2022 article, which includes the manipulated picture.

The story also cites voter records that supposedly prove the former first lady once identified as “male” in Illinois, her home state.

Conspiracy theories about Michelle Obama's gender spread on Twitter


The claims have also circulated on Twitter amid a wave of anti-LGBTQ misinformation.

But Matt Dietrich, a public information officer for the Illinois State Board of Elections, told AFP on June 20 that the agency “was not the source of the record pictured in the post and has no knowledge of such a record.”

He added: “We have no record of this voter’s registration ever indicating any gender other than female.”

A disclaimer from the People’s Voice, formerly known as NewsPunch, says it “makes no representations about the suitability, reliability, availability, timeliness, and accuracy” of information on its website.
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