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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Military Oath

Q: Is President Obama planning to have the military swear an oath to him rather than to the Constitution?

A: No, the "news report" that makes this claim is intended as satire.


Will soldiers and officers be required to pledge a loyalty oath directly to the office of the president instead of the Constitution as this news report suggests?

Military to Pledge Oath To Obama, Not Constitution

Conservative News and Reporting
"News for the Rest of Us"
Michele Chang

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is extremely frustrated with orders that the White House is contemplating. According to sources at the Pentagon, including all branches of the armed forces, the Obama Administration may break with a centuries-old tradition.

A spokesman for General James Cartwright, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, states that the Obama Administration wants to have soldiers and officers pledge a loyalty oath directly to the office of the President, and no longer to the Constitution.

"The oath to the Constitution is as old as the document itself." the spokesman said, "At no time in American history, not even in the Civil War, did the oath change or the subject of the oath differ. It has always been to the Constitution."

The back-and-forth between the White House and the Defense Department was expected as President George W. Bush left office. President Obama has already signed orders to close Guantanamo and to pull combat troops from Iraq. But, this, say many at the Defense Department, goes to far.

"Technically, we can’t talk about it before it becomes official policy." the spokesman continued. "However, the Defense Department, including the Secretary, will not take this laying down. Expect a fight from the bureaucracy and the brass."

Sources at the White House had a different point of view. In a circular distributed by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the rationale for the change was made more clear.

"The President feels that the military has been too indoctrinated by the old harbingers of hate: nationalism, racism, and classism. By removing an oath to the American society, the soldiers are less likely to commit atrocities like those at Abu Ghraib."

"We expect a lot of flak over this," the classified memo continues. "But those that would be most against it are those looking either for attention or control."

The time frame for the changes are unknown. However, it is more likely that the changes will be made around the July 4th holiday, in order to dampen any potential backlash. The difference in the oath will actually only be slight. The main differences will be the new phrasing. It is expected that the oath to the Constitution will be entirely phased out within two years.



It’s not true that President Barack Obama is changing the oath for military officers. The "news article" being circulated is satire. In fact, this e-mail is one of the easiest we’ve ever debunked. Simply clicking on the link that is helpfully provided at the end of the e-mail (at least in some versions) brings up the article, which was initially posted at Jumping in Pools, a political humor site. But the e-mail omits the following note:

NOTE: This article is, in fact, a satire piece. While you’re here, read other articles, like Obama going on the quarter, how he’s genetically superior, and how he took down Blago.

Even the conservative news site WorldNetDaily has acknowledged that the e-mail is "a hoax" that is "not based on an actual plan."

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen satire being passed around as fact. In an April 2008 Ask FactCheck, we debunked the rumor that Obama wanted to replace the national anthem with "I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing." That e-mail quoted a humor column titled "Semi-News — A Satirical Look at Recent News." And conservatives aren’t alone in believing hoax e-mails. In 2001, many on the left circulated a fictional "study" by the nonexistent Lovenstein Institute supposedly showing that George W. Bush had the lowest IQ of any modern president.

These e-mails play on a phenomenon psychologists call confirmation bias. That’s a fancy way of saying that we’re much more likely to believe things if they jibe with our preconceptions. So those who already dislike President Obama (or President Bush) are naturally predisposed to believe bad things about him. We have to fight those tendencies with a bit of common sense. There’s an old saying that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We suggest that that bit of folk-wisdom applies double to chain e-mails.

-Joe Miller


Avitabile, Matthew. "Military to Pledge Oath to Obama, Not Constitution." 28 January 2009. Jumping in Pools, Accessed 2 February 2009.

WorldNetDaily. "Military ‘Pledge for Obama’ a Hoax." 31 January 2009, Accessed 2 February 2009.