Did a Saudi Television Station Blur Out Michelle Obama's Face?

Rumor: A Saudi television station blurred out Michelle Obama's face during a news broadcast.

Claim:   A Saudi television station blurred out Michelle Obama’s face during a news broadcast.


Example:   [Collected via twitter, January 2015]


Origins:   Shortly after President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 27 January 2015 to pay their respects to the memory of the recently deceased King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and meet his successor, King Salman, video clips from the event started circulating on YouTube that purportedly showed how Saudi state television had blurred out the First Lady’s face:

But according to viewers who watched the broadcast live, including a Wall Street Journal reporter stationed in Saudi Arabia, Michelle Obama’s face was never blurred in newscasts aired in that country:

Nail al-Jubeir, the information director at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, also confirmed that Saudi television did not blur out the First Lady’s visage:

Saudi TV has been showing the total arrival ceremony at the airport and at the Palace and nowhere is anything blurred.

The blurred effect over Michelle Obama’s face was an “amateur production” created by someone unaffiliated with Saudi television who uploaded it to YouTube:

While we don’t know the exact reason why someone decided to blur out Michelle Obama’s face, it may have been a reaction to the First Lady’s not wearing a headscarf during her trip to Saudi Arabia:

Michelle Obama did not wear a headscarf or veil. In Saudi Arabia, that’s unusual: The country is one of the few on Earth where women are expected to cover their heads, and most Saudi women wear niqabs.

Exceptions are made for foreigners, however, and Michelle — who did wear loose clothing that fully covered her arms — appears to have been one of them. In photographs from the official events, other foreign female guests are also shown not wearing headscarves.

More than 1,500 tweets using a hashtag [that roughly translated to #Michelle_Obama_immodesty] were sent, many of which criticized the first lady. Some users pointed out that on a recent trip to Indonesia, Michelle had worn a headscarf. Why not in Saudi Arabia?

It should also be noted that YouTube user Mohamed Dessouki, who uploaded one of the most popular videos showing the First Lady’s blurred face, has at least one other video on his account featuring a censored woman.

Last updated:   28 January 2015


    Rogin, Josh.   “Saudis Say Michelle Obama Not Blurred on TV.”

    Bloomberg View.   28 January 2015.

    Taylor, Adam.   “Michelle Obama Forgoes a Headscarf and Sparks a Backlash in Saudi Arabia.”

    Washington Post.   28 January 2015.

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