No, Obama didn’t say ‘an impeached president can’t appoint judges’

Barack Obama criticizes Donald Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Spoof news article fooled hundreds on social media

A hoax news article published last month by a satirical website and widely circulated on social media falsely claims that former President Barack Obama gave an interview in which he called President Donald Trump’s recent Supreme Court nomination illegal because he’d been impeached, according to reports.

The fake story appeared on ObamaWatcher.com in late September, about the same time that Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative federal appeals court judge, to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Her confirmation hearing began Monday as the post was still being shared on social media, although many users appeared to have caught on to the joke.

“Legally, an impeached president can’t appoint judges,” the spoof story claims Obama said, according to the independent fact checker Snopes.com.

As it turns out, Obama never gave the interview, meaning he never said what the article claims, but the spoof story still tricked hundreds of Twitter and Facebook users who shared it to their news feeds as if it were true.

Many of those who reposted the article either missed or ignored the obvious signs of its invalidity, Snopes reported.

The story absurdly purports that Obama sat down for the interview with Joe Barron of the Washington periodical Impeached Embarrassments Monthly. Barron is actually a country music singer from El Paso, Texas, and there is no such publication in the United States.

In the made-up interview, Obama was said to have stated:

“Ah, if you folks look up Article eleven, section five, you’ll see very clearly where it denies any person elected to the Presidency and then consequently legally impeached by the Congress, all power of appointment that may ‘take responsibility for decisions in a manner that reflect the shame and disgrace of a leader who was shamed with the criminal reflection of his station.’ In other words, ah, it’s similar to denying a convicted prisoner the right to vote. It’s a legally-valid label of untrustworthiness. I mean, come on, you wouldn’t let someone who caused a dozen traffic pileups to drive a car the next day, right?”

The U.S. Constitution only has seven articles.

Some social media users who shared the story repeated the misinformation about U.S. Constitution Article 11, Section 5, according to Snopes.

On its About Page, ObamaWatcher describes its content as “parody, satire, and tomfoolery” that does not recount real-life events.

“Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site’s pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical.”

Scientists have attempted to explain why social media users are susceptible to misinformation in the age of the internet.

The key to people’s accepting fake news as true, despite evidence to the contrary, is a phenomenon known as confirmation bias, or the tendency for people to seek and accept information that confirms their existing beliefs while rejecting or ignoring that which contradicts those beliefs, according to a 2018 report by the American Psychological Association.

“At its core is the need for the brain to receive confirming information that harmonizes with an individual’s existing views and beliefs,” said Mark Whitmore, Ph.D., assistant professor of management and information systems at Kent State University’s College of Business Administration, according to the report. “In fact, one could say the brain is hardwired to accept, reject, misremember or distort information based on whether it is viewed as accepting of or threatening to existing beliefs.”

Trump was impeached by the U.S. House in December on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice stemming from an investigation into his dealings in Ukraine, but the Senate acquitted the 45th president in February.

Impeachment does not limit a president’s power to appoint judges.

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