"Fact Check" Site Digitally Alters Obama Portrait... Damage Control in Full Swing


Fact-checking and verifying the truth are definitely important in an era of “fake news” — but what happens when supposedly unbiased fact-checkers are themselves biased?

That’s the question Americans may want to ask about the website, which began as a debunker of urban legends but has veered into political territory.

While the well-known fact checking site pretends to be even-handed and objective, many of its “rulings” use skewed tactics to arrive at a left-leaning conclusion, which is exactly what happened this week with Snopes’ fact-check of the official Obama portrait.

On Tuesday, some media outlets including Conservative Tribune accurately reported that the gay African-American artist behind Barack Obama’s somewhat strange portrait has a habit of including, well, sperm cells in his artwork… and that part of his painting of Obama resembled a sperm to many observers.

Apparently desperate to protect Barack and Michelle Obama from a tide of negative reactions to their very “unconventional” portraits, Snopes gave the reports of a possible hidden sperm a firm “false” rating, but resorted to underhanded tricks and bias to do it.

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“Far-right pundits went off the deep end after African-American artist Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama was unveiled,” the supposedly unbiased fact-checking site declared.

That remarkably slanted claim was then followed by the screenshot of a Twitter post that sparked the controversy — except Snopes had modified the image to hide the very part of the painting that people had noticed!

The site led their article with a tweet from Twitter user “filterkimbro,” one of the people who noticed the strange “feature” in the portrait. The actual tweet included text followed by an image clearly showing what can only be described as a remarkably sperm-like “vein” painted on Obama’s head.

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However, in Snopes’ version of the tweet, the post had clearly been edited, and was cropped to cut off the actual part of the painting that people had noticed.

The left-leaning fact check site didn’t stop there. Incredibly, despite the “false” rating and calling conservative pundits “off the deep end,” Snopes itself confirmed that artist Kehinde Wiley sees himself as a provocateur using sexual and racial themes and has a habit of including male sexual imagery in his work.

“But although both sources were correct in pointing out that some of Wiley’s previous works featured direct and indirect representations of spermatozoa meant to mock ‘the highly charged masculinity,'” Snopes admitted, “they leapt a bit too eagerly to the conclusion that a faithfully-reproduced vein popping out of Obama’s forehead is in fact a giant sperm cell.” Emphasis added.

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Snopes itself linked to numerous examples of Wiley placing sperm cells in his art, yet bizarrely still tried to insist that conservative outlets were “off the deep end” for seeing, er, sperm cells in his art.

At they same time, the liberal fact check site declared that the sperm-like part of Obama’s portrait was “a faithfully-reproduced vein popping out of Obama’s forehead.”

Let’s look at that for a moment. Barack Obama was president for eight years. He was in front of a camera literally every day, and is perhaps the most-photographed man in recent history. Do you think people would have noticed a giant vein popping out of his forehead, which might even resemble a sperm cell?

True enough, Obama has veins near his temples — but compare what these actually look like to the large, oddly-shaped, prominent feature in the portrait and decide for yourself if this is “faithfully-reproduced.”

Remember, pundits never said that Obama doesn’t have veins on his head in real life. What they actually said was that the portrait contains a large, exaggerated vein that looks bizarrely like a sperm cell — and the artist has a history of purposely hiding sperm cells in his paintings.

Again, Snopes even admitted the painter had done similar things before, and it certainly isn’t a stretch to see how the painting element looks more like sperm than an accurate snapshot of Obama.

At the very least, the fact-checking site could have gone with an “unconfirmed” or “inconclusive” rating. By blatantly slapping a “false” rating on something that countless people have noticed with their own eyes, Snopes has only confirmed that they have an agenda.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.