Fact Check

President Obama and the Ice Bucket Challenge

Did President Obama refuse to participate in the ALS Association's 'Ice Bucket Challenge'?

Published Aug 19, 2014

Claim:   President Obama refused to participate in the ALS Association's "Ice Bucket Challenge."


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, August 2014]

Tea Party.net posted on Facebook that President Obama refuse to take the ice bucket challenge from an 86 year old woman who did take the challenge. Is that true and how did this 86 year old lady submit her challenge to the White House to begin with, etc. Is is also true that the original challenge was either do the ice bucket or contribute 100 dollars to your favorite charity compared to the way it is going around now?


Origins:   In August 2014 the online world was hit with the "Ice Bucket Challenge," a playful competition that encouraged netizens to douse themselves with buckets of ice water, and challenge others to do the same,

as a method of raising awareness and donations for the ALS Association (ALSA) — a national non-profit organization that provides services to persons with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and helps to fund research into the disease. As of mid-August 2014, ALSA was reporting it had surpassed $10 million in "Ice Bucket" donations.

As described on ALSA's web page about the "Ice Bucket Challenge," that phenomenon seeks both to raise awareness of ALS (through people actively taking the challenge of dumping buckets of ice water on their heads and posting videos of their activity on the Internet) and to raise funds for ALS research (through donations provided by those who prefer making financial contributions rather than dousing themselves with ice-cold water):

The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same, all in an effort to raise ALS awareness. Those who refuse to take the challenge are asked to make a donation to the ALS charity of their choice.

One of those who accepted the "Ice Bucket Challenge" was 86-year-old Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who took part in a mass challenge event on 10 August 2014 involving numerous members of the Kennedy clan and others, then challenged President Obama to do the same, declaring "Welcome to Cape Cod, President Obama. I nominate you":

The White House responded by stating that President Obama's contribution would be financial rather than participatory:

The President appreciates Mrs. Kennedy thinking of him for the challenge — though his contribution to this effort will be monetary. The President [will] be making a donation to an ALS charity this week.

Did President Obama therefore "refuse" to take the "Ice Bucket Challenge"? If one considers the whole essence of the challenge to be pouring ice water over one's head to raise awareness of ALS, then perhaps so. But, as described on the ALSA web site, the challenge also involves raising donations for ALS research from those who decline to participate in the "dousing yourself with ice water" portion and are instead asked "to make a donation to the ALS charity of their choice," and President Obama honored the spirit of the challenge by agreeing to the latter aspect.

Last updated:   19 August 2014

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

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