Fact Check

Michelle Obama Visits Bombing Victims

Michelle Obama visited a Saudi national injured in the Boston Marathon bombings but not an American who lost both his legs?

Published April 24, 2013


Claim:   Michelle Obama visited a Saudi national injured in the Boston Marathon bombings but not an American who lost both his legs.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, April 2013]


Origins:   One common political rumor associated with the Boston Marathon bombings maintains that when First Lady Michelle Obama paid a hospital visit to Boston Marathon bombing victims, she spent time with Saudi national Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi (who was originally reported by some news outlets as a suspect in the case) but did not visit with 27-year-old Chelmsford, Massachusetts, resident Jeff Bauman, who lost both his legs in the bombings but reportedly provided the FBI with a critical clue that led investigators to the homing in on the Tsarnaev brothers as suspects.

According to multiple news accounts, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama both visited victims of the Boston Marathon bombings after attending an interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on 18 April 2013:

Boosting morale for a city in shock and mourning, President Obama went to Massachusetts General Hospital to visit victims of the Boston Marathon terror bombings and their families and thank hospital staff for their efforts.

The president rode to Massachusetts General Hospital where he met privately with patients, their families and hospital staff.

The First Lady went to Boston Children's Hospital, where she visited the medical and surgical intensive care unit.

Afterwards, she went next door to Brigham and Women's Hospital to meet more victims and their families for more than an hour.

The visits were off limits to the media and came on short notice for security reasons.

If those reports are accurate, then Mrs. Obama likely did not see Jeff Bauman, as he was being cared for at Boston Medical Center and not either of the two medical facilities that the First Lady visited.

Abdul Rahman Ali Issa Al-Salimi Alharbi is a 22-year-old Saudi national who was injured in one of the explosions and was initially reported in some news accounts as a "suspect" or "person of interest." Later news accounts countered those classifications, stating that Alharbi was "considered a witness rather than a suspect."

Claims that the First Lady visited with Alharbi in the hospital apparently originated with a mention in Okaz, an Arabic-language Saudi newspaper, stating that "Michelle Obama, the wife of the American President, visited the Saudis in the hospital who were injured in the Boston bombing, Abdul Rahman Ali Isa al-Salmi al-Harbi and Noura Khaled Saleh al-Ajaji, to reassure them of their health."

A photo montage posted to Facebook pictures a number of people visiting with Alharbi in the hospital and includes a shot that appears to show the First Lady as well:

Some later versions of this item mistook Alharbi for arrested bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev and stated that the First Lady had "visited the bomber in the hospital," and others claimed Alharbi is Hamza bin laden, the son of one of Osama bin Laden's four wives.

Last updated:   24 April 2013


    Celona, Larry.   "FBI Grills Saudi Man in Boston Bombings."

    New York Post.   16 April 2013.

    Holt, Mytheos.

      "Are These Pictures of Michelle Obama Visiting the Saudi Student Put on a Watchlist?"

    The Blaze.   24 April 2013.

    Marcius, Chelsia Rose et al.   "Saudi Man Questioned in Boston Marathon Bombing Is a Witness."

    [New York] Daily News.   16 April 2013.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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