Fact Check

White House Privilege

Published Aug 31, 2015

FACT CHECK:   Did President Obama blame Virginia shooter Vester Lee Flanagan's actions on "white privilege"?

Claim:   President Obama blamed Virginia shooter Vester Lee Flanagan's actions on "white privilege."


Example:     [Collected via Twitter, August 2015]

Origins:    On 28 August 2015, the Facebook page "Fox News the FB Page" published what appeared to be a screen capture from Fox News' coverage of the 26 August 2015 fatal shooting of two WDBJ-TV journalists. The image attributed a quote to President Obama in which he purportedly identified "white privilege" as the cause of the shooting, and iterations of the image shared via "Fox News the FB page" included lengthy appended text that looked like a news article on the subject:

WASHINGTON — President Obama said he's heartbroken over the suicide of a black journalist in an act of gun violence Wednesday.

"It breaks my heart every time you read or hear about these kinds of incidents,young black men killed by guns" Obama told Fox News in an interview at the White House Wednesday.

The two WDBJ journalists, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, were shot down on live television while doing an interview for a morning show segment. The man suspected in the shootings, former station newsman Vester Flanagan took his life hours later after publishing his own video of the shootings on social media.

"Sadly, these kinds of events happen too often," Obama said in a separate interview with Fox News Jenna Jameson. "It's a testimony in this case to the fact that African Americans, they go into tough places clinging to their guns and bibles. This isnt one of those situations. He should have been safe. I think it's one more example of a black man driven to violence by the frustration of white privilege and lack of civil rights. If I had a son he would look like Vester"

The second portion of the text claimed a "'common sense' gun registry and confiscation program" was referenced after the shooting by both President Obama and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest:

Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Josh Earnest renewed Obama's call for what he called "common sense" gun confiscation.

"The precise details of that incident continue to be under investigation. But as you've heard me say in the past, this is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small all across the United States," Earnest said.

"I think the president has also been disappointed that the American people have not responded in the way that he would like," he said. "There are even some polls that indicate that there are clear majorities of gun owners that support registering and photographing all gun owners. But yet, we haven't seen Congress take this action. And that has been a source of significant for the President and black leaders."

President Obama has vowed that he will spend the remainder of his term on his gun registration and confiscation agenda.Congress has no plans to take up the matter in the next session.Congressional leaders have indicated they will be far too busy with flag banning and Planned Parenthood legislation until at least the end of the year.

As with a similar fabricated quote that Facebook page attributed to Republican presidential candidate Dr, Ben Carson, elements of legitimate earlier comments made by the subject were lifted to form the basis of the fabricated remarks. In 2012, President Obama stated that if he "had a son," that son would have looked like Trayvon Martin (a Florida teen shot and killed that year), and following the Virginia shooting the President did say that the gun violence "breaks [his] heart." But he did not mention "white privilege" at any point during those remarks, and other elements from that set of comments were refashioned to suggest President Obama's comments as solely referenced black Americans (when he in fact made no such qualification).

"Fox News The FB Page" is a parody group not affiliated with Fox News Channel that distorts current news stories or creates entirely fabricated ones. Previous news hoaxes from that site include a claim NASCAR was replacing their flag with a rainbow gay pride version, and a fake screenshot suggesting Donald Trump pledged to pay legal fees for the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion.

Last updated:      31 August 2015

Originally published:    31 August 2015

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.