Fact Check

Unveiling the Truth: Debunking Claims of Michelle Obama 'Mistreating' Former Chef Tafari Campbell

Campbell drowned in July 2023 while paddleboarding near the Obamas' waterfront estate on Martha's Vineyard.

Published Aug 29, 2023

Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama attends Opening Night celebrating '50 years of equal pay' during Day One of the 2023 US Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 28, 2023 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/GC Images) (Jean Catuffe/GC Images)
Image Via Jean Catuffe/GC Images
Claim:
A YouTube video claims that evidence exists that former first lady Michelle Obama mistreated late family chef Tafari Campbell.

The headline was striking: "Michelle Obama In Trouble As Evidence Suggests Her Mistreating Obama's Chef."

This was the title of a video published in late August 2023 on Drama Bay, one of a number of similar-looking YouTube channels that promote supposed news items from the world of celebrities and politics. At least two users also posted videos that reacted to the original clip.

However, videos like this one about former first lady Michelle Obama and late family chef Tafari Campbell were nothing more than misleading clickbait, as were the thumbnail images meant to entice users to click.

At no time during the video's eight minutes and 48 seconds was evidence presented that Michelle Obama had "mistreated" Campbell.

A video claimed without evidence that Michelle Obama mistreated family chef Tafari Campbell.This and other thumbnail images published by the Drama Bay YouTube channel were misleading.

Campbell drowned near the Obamas' waterfront estate on Martha's Vineyard in July 2023. The drowning was ruled to be an accident by the chief medical examiner of Massachusetts. The Obamas were not home at the time, according to Massachusetts State Police.

A disclaimer was included at the very bottom of the description under the video that said it might contain "gossip, rumors, exaggerated or indirectly besides the truth," and "content [that] might be opinionated." The disclaimer also advised that viewers do their own research.

However, the only way to see this disclaimer would be if users clicked "more" to expand the video's description.

With this video's claim that said Obama had "mistreated" Campbell, we chose a fact-check rating that we call "Unfounded," which we defined as follows: "This rating applies to a claim that we have investigated but found no demonstrable evidence to support it. Such claims typically originate as hearsay, speculation, or groundless rumor."

These kinds of videos and their artificial-intelligence-generated narrator voices that pronounced former President Barack Obama's first name as "Barrack," as in a military barrack to house soldiers, simply appeared designed to make YouTube advertising revenue off of online users who place blind trust in anything they read or watch — much like commenters who post remarks under a news article after only glancing at a headline or thumbnail image.

We previously reported on a number of individual rumors about Campbell's death, some that were mentioned in the Drama Bay video. We also published the heartfelt remarks that were posted by the Obamas that paid tribute to their late chef.

In other previous stories, we looked at videos published by Just In, Drama Bay, Spill Today, and other YouTube channels, all that had similar-looking content and appeared to be part of the same network. Some of these channels showed signs of being based in India, Indonesia, and United Arab Emirates, to name a few.

For example, some videos on these channels claimed that various celebrities had made public remarks about the child-sex trafficking film "Sound of Freedom," including actors Mark Wahlberg, Matthew McConaughey, and Denzel Washington.

However, these videos presented zero evidence that Wahlberg, McConaughey, and Washington ever said anything about the film. However, that apparently didn't matter to the thousands of YouTube commenters who posted their thoughts without bothering to realize that their politics and emotions were being taken for a ride so that the videos' creators could earn advertising revenue.

Sources

Liles, Jordan. "Denzel Washington 'Rages at Hollywood' for Banning 'Sound of Freedom'?" Snopes, 9 Aug. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/denzel-washington-sound-freedom/.

---. "Did Mark Wahlberg Comment About 'Sound of Freedom' and Hollywood, Saying 'Enough Is Enough'?" Snopes, 3 Aug. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/wahlberg-sound-of-freedom-hollywood/.

---. "Did Matthew McConaughey Speak About 'Sound of Freedom,' Saying Hollywood 'All Sold Their Soul'?" Snopes, 2 Aug. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/matthew-mcconaughey-sound-of-freedom/.

---. "Videos with AI Voices Promote Unsupported Rumors About Death of Obamas' Chef, Tafari Campbell." Snopes, 21 Aug. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/news/2023/08/21/obama-chef-tafari-campbell-death-rumors/.

Marcelo, Philip. "Obama's Doctor Didn't Conduct His Late Chef's Autopsy and the 911 Call Wasn't Delayed, Police Say." The Associated Press, 31 July 2023, https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-obama-chef-drowning-vineyard-452209903189.

Medina, Eduardo. "Drowning Death of Obama Family Chef Is Ruled an Accident." The New York Times, 23 Aug. 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/22/us/tafari-campbell-obama-chef-drown-accident.html.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.

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