Q: Was Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, charged with larceny and fraud?
A: No. That false claim piggybacks on a fake news story that we already wrote about.
Has Marian Robinson, Barack Obama’s mother-in-law, been charged with grand larceny and fraud for accepting money from the federal government under false pretenses?
Marian Robinson has not been charged with larceny and fraud over a federal pension. That claim comes from a follow-up to a fake news story that we debunked months ago.
The original story falsely claimed that Robinson would receive a government pension for taking care of her grandchildren, Malia and Sasha Obama. The fake update says Robinson was then charged for “accepting money from the federal government under false pretenses.”
As we’ve written before, the original premise is bogus. The Boston Tribune, a now defunct fake news website, published the first version of this rumor in October 2016 under the headline “First Grandma Marian Robinson to Receive Lifetime $160K Government Pension.”
The article claimed to have acquired evidence through a Freedom of Information Act request, but without any context or details about the request itself, or links to the supposed documents.
Robinson did live in the White House, and often cared for her granddaughters, but she was not a government employee and is not eligible to receive a pension. Former presidents receive pensions, but their extended family members do not. Only the widow(er) of a former president is currently authorized to receive an annual federal pension of $20,000.
In March, the satirical website America’s Last Line of Defense, or the Resistance, used the Tribune story as the basis for the equally false story that Robinson was facing criminal charges over her purported pension. The Federalist Nation, another website that posts fake news stories, republished the Resistance story in late April, and it has been reported by Facebook users as potentially fake.
“Marian Robinson, Barack Obama’s mother in law, has been charged with grand larceny and fraud for accepting money from the federal government under false pretenses,” the Resistance article said. “While it may not have been her idea to ask for a $160K pension for being the Obama daughters’ ‘caretaker,’ she was the one who filled out the paperwork and signed her name.”
Regular readers of FactCheck.org know that America’s Last Line of Defense makes up bogus stories. A disclaimer on its “about us” page says: “The Resistance may include information from sources that may or may not be reliable and facts that don’t necessarily exist. All articles should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney. Pictures that represent actual people should be considered altered and not in any way real.”
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.
Wallace, Caroline. “No ‘First Grandma’ Pension.” FactCheck.org. 9 Nov 2016.
Armstrong, Lorne. “First Grandma Marian Robinson to Receive Lifetime $160K Government Pension.” The Boston Tribune. 17 Oct 2016.
LastLineOfDefense.org. “BREAKING: Obama’s Mother In Law Charged With Larceny And Fraud.” 16 Mar 2017.
FederalistNation.com. “BREAKING: Obama’s Mother In Law Charged With Larceny And Fraud.” 27 Apr 2017.
Ginsberg, Wendy and Richardson, Daniel. “Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits.” Congressional Research Service. 16 Mar 2016.
Thompson, Krissah, and Eilperin, Juliet. “The elusive Mrs. R.: Marian Robinson, the White House’s not-so-typical live-in grandma.” Washington Post. 31 Mar 2014.