Fact Check

Obama Signs Executive Order Requiring Loser of Presidential Election to Leave Country?

A satirical item about President Obama's mandating that the loser of the 2016 election leave the country forever was mistaken for real news by some social media users.

Published Oct. 19, 2016

President Obama signed an executive order mandating the loser of the 2016 election forever leave the country on 9 November 2016.

On 19 October 2016, New Yorker humorist Andy Borowitz published a satirical item about President Obama's signed an executive order mandating whichever candidate lost the 8 November 2016 presidential election must leave the United States "forever":

In an Oval Office ceremony on [18 October 2016], President Barack Obama signed an executive order requiring the loser of the 2016 Presidential election to leave the country forever ... The executive order calls for the loser of the November 8th election to depart the country on the morning of November 9th and never return.

“Whoever that turns out to be,” the President said.

Obama acknowledged that the executive order marked a departure from American electoral tradition, but added, “A lot of good will come of this.”

Although Borowitz's satire doesn't typically get mistaken for straight news, combination of public fascination with the near-magical powers purportedly contained in executive orders and the New Yorker's reputation as a venerable American periodical apparently enabled the joke to fly over the heads of many social media users. However, the story was not the first content from the popular Borowitz Report mistaken for real news on social media.

Prior instances of Borowitz's work that confused users included claims George W. Bush described Bob Denver as a role model, Fox News pledged to "shut down for routine maintenance" on 21 January 2013 (the date President Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term), and Chris Christie churlishly refused to retrieve Donald Trump's dry cleaning after Mike Pence was named as the candidate's running mate.

Most "satirical" web sites aim to trick social media users into sharing fake (and often offensive) content, but Borowitz is one of the few actual satirists whose material circulates for the purpose of poking fun at political and current events via humor. His New Yorker bio states:

Andy Borowitz is a New York Times best-selling author and a comedian who has written for The New Yorker since 1998. In 2001, he created the Borowitz Report, a satirical news column that has millions of readers around the world, for which he won the first-ever National Press Club award for humor. The Borowitz Report was acquired by The New Yorker in 2012.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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