The rumor that President Barack Obama refuses, or doesn’t know how, to say the pledge of allegiance just won’t die. Since early in his presidential candidacy, we’ve been getting e-mails with photos that purport to show Obama failing to properly salute the flag during the pledge of allegiance or the national anthem. The photos have reliably been real, but taken out of context. The most recent example, for instance, included a genuine photo of Obama standing with hands folded while everyone else saluted or put their hands over their hearts — but that’s because "Hail to the Chief" was playing.
Now the rumor has been repeated with a photo that’s not only miscontextualized, but fake. This picture supposedly depicts both President Obama and Michelle Obama saluting the flag during the pledge of allegiance with their left hands instead of their right. But the photo has been flipped, and the original picture wasn’t taken during the pledge of allegiance. It was taken during a rendition of "Taps" at a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony.
The e-mail accompanying the digitally altered picture oozes with phony outrage:
Chain e-mail: Really! A U.S. President and his wife who do not even know how to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. This is embarrassing! Don’t bother to see if the photo is printed backwards. Just look at the suit buttons and their ring fingers. Perhaps when you never recite the Pledge of Allegiance, you don’t know what to do!
Setting aside any comment about the dishonesty of all this, we have to give the photo-fakers this much credit: They learned from others’ mistakes. Eight years ago, credulous e-mailers circulated a photo of then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle with the wrong hand over his heart. Alert skeptics noted then that his suit buttoned the wrong way (men’s suits button left over right, and Daschle’s suit in the picture was buttoned right over left), and that his "left" hand had no wedding ring. Daschle’s image had simply been cut out from the photo and flipped over. So the e-mail accompanying this new fakery calls attention to the Obamas’ buttons and wedding rings to prove that it hasn’t been subject to the same manipulation.
Despite the care taken, though, we’ve received a steady stream of e-mails from readers who smelled a rat. They’re right — the photo has been reversed. If you look closely at the uniformed officers in the background, their medals are on the wrong side. And Michelle Obama parts her hair on the left, not the right. The hoaxer flipped the photo, then doctored the details that tripped up the Daschle e-mail. (Snopes and About.com also pointed out the telltale signs that the photo had been altered.)
Not only that, but the original photo wasn’t even taken during the pledge of allegiance. In fact, "Taps" was being played following a moment of silence on Sept. 11, 2009, as this video from CBS News shows.