A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Michelle Obama’s Room Service?


Q: Did Michelle Obama spend $450 on room service?

A: No. The claim is a total fabrication, and the sources that publicized it have retracted the story.

FULL QUESTION

I recently received an e-mail with a picture and quote of Michelle Obama saying if universal health care is going to work, someone is going to have to give up a piece of the pie so someone can have more. The e-mail went on to say, "oh really," then it had a picture of a room service receipt from the Waldorf-Astoria signed by Michelle Obama on 10/15/08 for 2 lobster appetizers, 2 caviars, 2 lobsters & champagne for a total of $447.00. Is this for real or did someone do some Photoshop?

FULL ANSWER

This hoax e-mail, which purports to show a copy of Michelle Obama’s exorbitant room service receipt, reproduces a flyer that was posted on the blog of a pro-Hillary Clinton political action committee, Puma PAC. The flyer quotes Michelle Obama saying that "someone is going to have to give up a piece of the pie" for the sake of universal health care and education. It then pictures a receipt from the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City, dated October 15, showing a total charge of $447.39 for lobster appetizers, lobster, caviar (Iranian caviar, no less), champagne and room service charges. The receipt is signed with the name Michelle Obama.

We certainly hope this is an Adobe Photoshop job, since the alternative explanation is that someone ran up a $450 bill at the Waldorf-Astoria just to perpetrate a cruel hoax. Or perhaps that someone stole Michelle Obama’s credit card. Or that there’s someone else named Michelle Obama, someone with expensive tastes. What’s certainly true is that Michelle Obama, the presidential candidate’s wife, did not dine on lobster in New York on October 15. She was more than 600 miles away giving a speech in Indiana.

The New York Post, which originally reported the fabricated story as true on October 17, has retracted its article. Darragh Murphy, the director of Puma PAC, has also retracted the flyer and apologized for perpetuating the hoax.

Jess Henig

Clarification: Michelle Obama was in New York on the evening of Oct. 15 to attend the final presidential debate but did not stay in the Waldorf-Astoria, according to the Obama campaign (and the New York Post retraction). She left Indiana after her afternoon speech. The receipt is dated 4:04 pm, at which time the campaign says Obama had not yet arrived in New York.

Sources

New York Post. "Room Disservice," 21 Oct. 2008.