Fact Check

Former Marine's Letter to Michelle Obama

A former Marine's open letter to Michelle Obama is frequently shared with misleading information.

Published Dec 21, 2015

Image Via Marines
After being challenged by Michelle Obama, a former Marine wrote the First Lady a scathing letter.
What's True

Mike Shepard, a U,S. Marine, posted an open letter to Michelle Obama at the DC Gazette.

What's False

Shepard's letter was written in response to a direct challenge from the First Lady.

On 17 December 2015, the web site Q Political posted an article titled "When Michelle Obama Challenged a Marine, His Response Was Brutally Honest." With the exception of a few added brief sentences, a misleading photograph, and baseless claim that Michelle Obama "challenged" a Marine, the Q Political article was simply a verbatim copy of an opinion piece penned by Marine Mike Shepard and posted on 30 May 2015 to the DC Gazette (a clickbait web site that, among other things, posts fake news items as if they were real news). That piece began as follows:

Mrs. Obama

It sickens me that I have to take time to write you this letter. I am a Marine who doesn't recognize color because every color has lived and died for you. You live in a free country to blame your life on the color of another man's skin. All colors have given their lives for an educated woman to have the freedom to be so ignorant. I don't blame black people for the ignorance that comes from your mouth. I love all colors because I love all that God creates. I don't have to like you to love you because we can't always like the ones we love. Just because I don't like you today doesn't mean I can't like you tomorrow. I don't like you or your husband today because of what you're doing to this country. Isn't it funny how the truth always reveals itself in time. You and your husband never showed this side of yourselves in 2008 before he was elected.

Shepard writes in his DC Gazette biography that he served in the U.S. Marines for 9 years:

After graduating high school I served nine years in the Marines. My loyalty is to God, country, family in that order. I am not your typical writer. I am just a Marine with an opinion. What I write is my opinion and not persuaded by anyone else.

While Q Political did not mention Shepard's race, the photograph included with their article suggested that he was African-American:

marine and obama

However, a YouTube clip of a radio interview with Shepard showed him to be white:

Shepard's letter to Michelle Obama has been republished by several conservative outlets under a variety of misleading and sensationalized titles, such as "When Michelle Obama Challenged a Marine, His Response Was Brutally Honest," "Michelle Obama FURIOUS After U.S. Marine Sends Her THIS Letter," and "Epic Letter from Marine Humiliates Michelle Obama." However, there is no evidence that Shepard actually mailed the letter to the White House, that Michelle Obama ever read the letter, or that her reaction to it was anger and/or humiliation.

It's also false to say that the letter was written in response to a direct challenge from Michelle Obama. Shepard penned his letter to the First Lady a few weeks after she delivered a commencement speech at Tuskegee University. While Michelle Obama's speech touched on race relations in the United States, she did not issue any sort of "challenge" to the military in general or to Marines in specific.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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