After numerous women came forward to accuse powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault, and rape in October 2017, social media users circulated photographs of Weinstein with various politicians in an apparent attempt to smear their characters. One meme went even further, purportedly showing President Obama bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Weinstein, President Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, and Bill Cosby and joking that it should be renamed the “sexual predator award”:
Three women have accused Bill Clinton sexual harassment, rape, or sexual assault — charges that he denies. Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months prison for exchanging sexual messages with a 15-year-old girl. Dozens of women accused Bill Cosby of drugging, raping and assaulting them.
The only genuine image included in this meme is that of President Obama awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to President Bill Clinton during a ceremony in November 2013. The Washington Post reported at the time that:
It was a ceremony rich in pageantry and politics: President Obama, at the nadir of his presidency, bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on a Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton …
Obama uttered fewer than 300 words about Clinton. But his remarks paid tribute to the sweep of his public life — from transforming education as governor of Arkansas to growing the economy as the 42nd president to leading relief efforts in the wake of global natural disasters. Obama said Clinton’s charitable foundation has saved “literally hundreds of millions of people.”
“He still remembers as a child waving goodbye to his mom — tears in her eyes — as she went off to nursing school so she could provide for her family,” Obama said of Clinton. “And I think lifting up families like his own became the story of Bill Clinton’s life.”
All three of the other images were created by taking a genuine photograph of a different recipient and then using digital manipulation to add the heads of Weinstein, Weiner, and Cosby. The photograph purportedly showing Obama with Weinstein, for instance, originally featured an image of Vice President Joe Biden:
Obama surprised Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in January 2017.
The image purportedly showing Obama with Anthony Weiner was created using an image that originally featured actor Tom Hanks:
Hanks received his award in November 2016.
The image of Bill Cosby was also fake. The original image featured President Obama bestowing the Medal of Freedom on musician Bruce Springsteen:
Although the image of Bill Cosby with President Obama is fake, the comedian truly did receive the award in 2002 — from President George W. Bush:
Neither Weinstein nor Weiner has received a Presidential Medal of Freedom.