Fact Check

Public Assistance Barbie

An old fake news item about a holiday release of "Public Assistance Barbie" made the rounds yet again in 2016.

Published Nov. 27, 2016

Mattel is introducing "Public Assistance Barbie" for the holidays.

On 26 November 2016, the Facebook page "America Reloaded" shared an article that appeared to report that Mattel was introducing a "Public Assistance Barbie" doll, just in time for holiday shopping:

"Since 1959 Barbie dolls have been through major changes to reflect the times we live in. Today with over 40% of Americans on some sort of public assistance, we felt the time was right for ‘Public Assistance Barbie,” said Mattel spokesman Rick Reynolds. “After doing research on people receiving assistance, we have come out with what we think is a fair and sensitive portrayal of that kind of person with our new doll. Each Public Assistance Barbie will come with a new Cadillac, Puma sweats, a pack of Newports, an Obama phone, an EBT card, and a rack of Budweiser. She will also come in three styles: heavily tattooed and pierced, pregnant and smoking, and a ‘black eye’ version from when drunken Ken beat her for not paying the cable bill. Public Assistance Barbies will be on the shelves in time for your holiday purchases, and will come in special theft-deterrent boxes. EBT cards cannot be used to purchase, unfortunately.”

In case the fabricated quotes were not enough to raise red flags, the linked article was a 19 November 2014 fake news story from Empire News, which carries a disclaimer stating that all content it publishes is "parody" or "satire":

Empire News is intended for entertainment purposes only. Our website and social media content uses only fictional names, except in cases of public figure and celebrity parody or satirization. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental.

Although the "satirical" nature of "Public Assistance Barbie" was perhaps obvious to some, many social media users shared the years-old article without realizing the claim had been entirely fabricated.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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