I remember seeing a meme similar to this a while ago, when some other minor celebrity died. For all I know, it might have been Chris Kyle. In any case, the message was the same: Obama ordered flags at half staff when the notorious junkie Whitney Houston kicked the bucket, but made no mention of (insert name of conservative darling), who was a True American Hero. I was certain that I’d already written about it, but apparently not. Oh well, let’s rectify that situation right now.
First of all, I have no idea what President Obama did or didn’t say in the wake of Shirley Temple Black’s death, either publicly or privately, and I sincerely doubt that the author of this meme knows either. I know that Obama did not interrupt prime time television to announce a ticker-tape parade around the national mall in honor of Mrs Black’s memory…and I would not expect him to. Let’s be honest here: Shirley Temple was an exceptionally cute child star eight decades ago, after which she pursued a moderately successful but not especially noteworthy political career. I’m not trying to put her down, mind you, I’m simply pointing out that Shirley Temple Black’s post-Hollywood career is not necessarily the stuff of legends.
So did President Obama disproportionately honor the memory of Whitney Houston after her 2012 death? In a word, no. The left side of this meme is entirely fictitious, except maybe for Ms Houston’s political leanings, which are irrelevant anyway.
Shall we begin with the cause of death? Whitney Houston was found submerged in a bathtub. The coroner described her death as an accidental drowning, although the cause behind the cause was most likely a combination of her heart condition and recent cocaine use. She did not explicity die from a cocaine overdose, although she had been using.
And how did President Obama respond to her passing? He didn’t; at least, not publicly. President Obama never offered any public comments regarding the death of Whitney Houston. His press secretary Jay Carney said: “I know that … well, I haven’t spoken with him about it, but … I know that his thoughts and prayers are with her family, especially her daughter. I mean, it’s a tragedy to lose somebody so talented at such a young age.”
And that’s it. President Obama never ordered any flags lowered to half-mast. But New Jersey governor and controversy magnet Chris Christie did. Governor Christie defended his decision by saying that Mrs Houston was “a cultural icon in this state and her accomplishments in her life were a source of great pride for many people in this state and for this state as a whole. On that basis, I think she’s entitled to have that recognition made for her.”
I’m not here to bash on Governor Christie either, by the way. If he felt it was appropriate to lower the flags for Whitney Houston, then so be it. It doesn’t really affect the health or well-being of New Jersey or the United States, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it.
The content of this meme was so easily debunked by a nanosecond of fact-checking that it boggles the mind that it gets passed along at all. This meme can only be accepted by somebody who is willfully ignorant; somebody who wants to believe the absolute worst about President Obama, no matter how ridiculous it is. I’m not saying the man’s perfect – there are legitimate reasons to dislike his policies – but don’t be intellectually lazy. Find out what he really represents. If you don’t like that, fine. And if you want to make memes that accurately reflect things Obama has said and done and which you find distasteful, be my guest. But don’t be a parrot for the conservative noise machine. Don’t assume that every negative story about Obama is true just because you want it to be true. In the words of another meme – a wiser meme: I don’t mind if you aren’t a fan of the President. I do mind if the reason why is a lie.