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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Not A Fake, But A Stretch

Debunking e-mail rumors today seems to require that one be an image analysis expert. We regularly get requests to say whether pictures are real or a result of Photoshop. While some of the photos are obviously fabricated, like the one of the president and first lady in stereotypical "pimp and ho" getup, others are more subtle. For instance, we found that the picture being circulated as "Obama’s crotch salute" was a real photo, but that the circumstances were being grievously misrepresented.

The picture of Obama with Tareq (white suit jacket) and Michaele (white dress) Salahi, who crashed a White House state dinner in November, is also a genuine photo. It was taken at a 2005 Rock the Vote event and shows the Salahis with Obama and members of the musical group the Black Eyed Peas. The myth-busting site Snopes.com cross-checked the photo with others from the same event and found there’s reason to believe that Obama posed for this picture with the Salahis.

The e-mail claims that this means Obama and the Salahis were previously acquainted, which means they must have been invited guests to the dinner honoring the Indian prime minister, which in turn means that Obama is trying to "throw the Secret Service under the bus" by trumping up gate-crashing charges and pinning the blame on security. That’s a lot of leaps to make from a single photo. Appearing in a picture together doesn’t mean that Obama invited the Salahis to the state dinner honoring the Indian prime minister — after all, the Black Eyed Peas also appear in the photo, and they weren’t on the list of expected attendees. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that Obama and the Salahis were acquainted. Snopes points out that there are pictures of the Salahis with John McCain at the same event — they seem to like getting their photos taken with politicians.

So while we’re satisfied that this photo is real, it says nothing about whether the Salahis were truly gate-crashers at the White House.