American Flag: Are Obama ‘crotch salute’ emails a hoax? Obama disrespect our flag?
That’s the red-hot question whizzing around the Internet since last year—except that it’s usually phrased as an angry accusation rather than a question. Have you seen one of these claims online? A photo accompanies the message, showing that the president is not saluting when the picture was taken, although others are saluting. Instead, he has his hands folded in what has been called a “crotch salute.” The photo, the emails claim, was taken at the 2009 Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington Cemetery. Another version claims the photo was taken at a memorial for the Ft. Hood victims.

But, is it true? Do you believe it?  I’ve talked with well educated people who swear it is. When I expressed some skepticism, one person said, “Just go on the web and see for yourself! He’s not saluting and his hands are on his crotch!” This person voted for Obama in 2008 and—because of the photo—declares that he won’t do so in 2012.

Experts in the “Urban Legends” department investigated and here is what they conclude: “Though the photo … is authentic, none of the accusatory statements accompanying it are true.” Most importantly, “there’s a very good reason why President Obama wasn’t saluting when the … photo was taken, even though everyone else on the dais was. C-Span video footage reveals that the moment in question occurred just after Obama was introduced and the band began playing ‘Hail to the Chief’.” Presidents don’t salute at this time, while others around the chief executive do out of respect for the office. You can read the whole report online, including photos, sample emails and a link to the video. But, here’s the Urban Legends verdict in stark terms:

Description: Emailed photo / Hoax
Circulating since: Nov. 2009
Status: False

What’s surprising to me is that these “urban legends” are so persistent—and that some people so easily believe them, despite evidence to the contrary. Are you surprised?

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