Fact Check

FALSE: Admiral Fired for Exposing Obama's Dubai Mansion Purchase

In January 2016, Rear Admiral Rick Williams was relieved of command; however, that action had nothing to do with any presidential real estate scouting in Dubai.

Published Jan 11, 2016

President Obama fired Rear Admiral Rick Williams for "questioning" the President's purported recent purchase of a mansion in Dubai.

On 9 January 2016, Stars and Stripes published an article reporting that Rear Adm. Rick Williams had been relieved of duty just six months after command of Carrier Strike Group 15:

The commander of the Navy's Carrier Strike Group 15 based in San Diego was relieved of his duties, the Navy said in a release.

Rear Adm. Rick Williams was removed from his position due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command, the release said.

The Navy's Third Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Nora Tyson relieved Williams based on the results of an investigation into allegations of misuse of government computer equipment.

A 9 January 2016 Navy Times article elaborated that the disciplinary action taken against Williams stemmed from his use of government computers to view pornography:

During a routine inspection, Williams was found to have looked at pornographic images on his government computer, violating Navy rules, said a Navy source familiar with the incident. The misuse of the computer did not involve any classified material and the investigation is ongoing, the source added.

"They have enough information to say it wasn't just a mistake," the source said. "It was extensive enough that they knew it was not just an error."

On 10 January 2016, disreputable web site whatdoesitmean.com published an article ("Top US Admiral Fired for Questioning Obama Purchase of Mansion in Dubai") that spun Williams' story as one in which he was relieved of command for "questioning Obama's purchase of mansion in Dubai":

A stunning new Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) report circulating in the Kremlin today states that one of the United States Navy’s top commanders was relieved of his command a few hours ago after he sent out an "email/posting" revealing that President Barack Obama was in the process of purchasing a multi-million dollar seaside luxury villa in the United Arab Emirates city (UAE) of Dubai.

According to this report, the Commander of the US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 15, Rear Admiral Rick Williams, posted a "pointed" query on 8 January [since deleted] to the US Naval Institute's "Readiness Kill Chain" "recipients/responders" list as to why Navy security and intelligence personal had been dispatched from Naval Support Facility Thurmont (aka Camp David) to Dubai on what he termed an "Obama house hunting mission".

None of the latter version of the tale was true. There is no record of President Obama's purchasing a mansion or any other property in Dubai.  The story originated with a fake news source, the whatdoesitmean.com political conspiracy site, described by RationalWiki as follows:

Sorcha Faal is the alleged author of an ongoing series of "reports" published at WhatDoesItMean.com, whose work is of such quality that even other conspiracy nutters don't think much of it.

Each report resembles a news story in its style, but usually includes a sensational headline barely related to reality and quotes authoritative high-level Russian sources (such as the Russian Federal Security Service) to support its most outrageous claims. Except for the stuff attributed to unverifiable sources, the reports don't contain much original material. They are usually based on various news items from the mainstream media and/or whatever the clogosphere is currently hyperventilating about, with each item shoehorned into the conspiracy narrative the report is trying to establish.

This is not the first time whatdoesitmean.com has started rumors with little base in reality. In May 2013, the site started a rumor claiming Russian president Vladimir Putin threatened the U.S. over the Obama administration's support of Monsanto; in October 2013, the site maintained that President Obama fired several military officers for disobeying his order to destroy Charleston as part of a "false flag" attack; in January 2014, it asserted President Obama planned to displace thousands of people in Montana in order to give their land to Native Americans.

The image used to illustrate President Obama's purported mansion in Dubai appears to have been plucked at random from widely-available real estate listings in the UAE (seen below, labeled in subsequent iterations of the rumor):

obama mansion dubai

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.