Breaking News

Fact check: Fake story claims former President Barack Obama was arrested for espionage

  | USA TODAYplay

Show Caption

Hide Caption

Barack Obama on ego and the presidency

By the time he assumed office, Obama realized, “The ego part of it didn’t interest me anymore. What interested me was what could I get done.”

The claim: Former President Barack Obama was arrested for espionage.

This week, former President Barack Obama made headlines for his pledge to receive a coronavirus vaccine on camera as proof the treatment is safe.

But on some corners of the internet, a very different headline has also started to spread: “Former President Barack Obama arrested for ESPIONAGE.”

The headline first appeared Nov. 28 on Conservative Beaver, a website that brands itself as offering “Conservative News, Canadian Style.”

The first paragraph of the article claims that Obama was arrested “on a charge that he conspired with a business partner of his who also was a former CIA officer to communicate classified information up to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).”

Conservative Beaver has not responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment.

Obama has not been arrested; claims stolen from press release about an unrelated individual

In reality, Obama has not been arrested for any crimes — espionage or otherwise. Conservative Beaver appears to have fabricated the story.

The majority of its article was copied directly from a press release the Department of Justice issued on Aug. 17 to announce the arrest of an unrelated individual, Alexander Yuk Ching Ma.

The article’s first paragraph is almost identical to the first paragraph of the press release. It explains Ma was arrested “on a charge that he conspired with a relative of his who also was a former CIA officer to communicate classified information up to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).”

There’s just one difference between the press release and the story on Conservative Beaver, including capitalization and punctuation: the substitution of the word “relative” for “business partner.”

Conservative Beaver also included a series of quotes about the arrest from Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers, all of which are identical to his quotes in the press release from August.

More: Fact check: What’s true and what’s false about the 2020 election

This isn’t the first time Conservative Beaver has used bona fide legal documents from the Department of Justice to make false claims.

Previously, USA TODAY debunked a doctored version of an indictment that it used to claim George Soros had been arrested for election-related crimes.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, the claim that former President Barack Obama was arrested for espionage is FALSE. Obama has not been arrested for any crimes — espionage or otherwise. The story was fabricated by Conservative Beaver, which stole most of its claim from a press release announcing the arrest of an unrelated individual.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

Facebook Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *