Michelle Obama vs. the American Flag

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Viral Video Debate

All This for a Damn Flag
Netlore Archive: Viral video purports to show first lady Michelle Obama whispering "All this for a damn flag?" in President Obama's ear during a flag folding ceremony on the anniversary of 9/11. Screenshot of video clip posted on YouTube

A viral video has been circulating since October 2011 that purportedly shows former First Lady Michelle Obama denigrating the American flag. The video is generally attached to emails that people have been sending to friends, acquaintances, and others. The episode is a complete fabrication. Obama never spoke any words belittling the flag or dishonoring the ceremony. Read on to find the details behind the video, how it began circulating, and the facts of the matter.

Example Email

Below is an example email that was circulating on June 14, 2012:

FW: Obama's wife as seen by deaf people

Obama and his wife were attending The 9/11 Memorial Ceremony and watched as the Color Guard folded the flag into a triangular shape, according to custom.

A video camera caught the two from the sidelines. Obama's wife leaned over and said to him, "All this for a damn flag?" Obama turned to her, smiled smugly and nodded his head in agreement.

How do we know what was said? The video was presented for translation to a lip reading instructor at The River School, a Washington D.C. school for the deaf. The video is shown at normal speed, 3/4 speed, and 1/2 speed with no banners obstructing her lips. Click here to view for yourself:


One term. For all those who served in the military, and the ones who died or were wounded for a "damn flag" as Michelle call it, just so she could be free to get all the benefits she got, her ivy league education and her husband elected as President of the best country on earth... Shame on her and Obama... for "a damn flag."

What first lady would make remarks like this? Probably the one who just recently was for the first time proud to be an American? This is the result of an entitlement society and affimative action. The results are tearing away the backbone of this great nation and replacing it with ignorant trash.

Did Not Read Her Lips

Contrary to what's claimed above, no instructors employed by the River School in Washington, D.C., helped in the interpretation of Michelle Obama's lip movements in the video in question.

"Please be advised," read a statement posted on the school's website in 2011, "that the River School was not involved in any translation services for a recent video clip currently circulating on the Internet." The denial was reaffirmed by River School director Nancy Mellon in a statement quoted by Politifact.com. "It's definitely not us," Mellon said. "We would never try to do anything like this."

Obama's Response

The online discussion became so heated that Michelle Obama released a statement at the time, through Kristina Schake, her communications director (via Media Matters):

The First Lady was commenting to the President on how moving and powerful it always is to watch all that America's firefighters and police officers do to honor the flag. It was an emotional moment on a powerful day and she was awed by the ceremony and all that the flag symbolizes.

Comments Appreciate, Not Derogatory

In point of fact, there's no good reason to suppose that any trained or experienced lip readers played a part in the interpretation of Michelle Obama's lip movements advanced in these viral messages. The closest thing to expert testimony we do have comes from the hearing-impaired viewers who took part in a September 2011 discussion about the video on AllDeaf.com. The impression of all concerned was that the First Lady's private comments to President Obama during the flag ceremony were appreciative, not derogatory.

The majority view was that she said, "It's amazing how they fold that flag." Others thought she may have said the words, "I wonder if they flew that flag."