Friday, July 20, 2018
Business

Falsehood spreads about pension for 'first grandma'

The statement

Says "first grandma" Marian Robinson, left, will get a $160,000 annual pension for life when President Barack Obama leaves office.

Bloggers, Jan. 9 in Internet posts

The ruling

With President Barack Obama and his family soon vacating the White House, several websites continue to spread a fake news story that says "first grandma" Marian Robinson will be getting a $160,000 annual pension after they move out.

Bloggers on the websites USPostman.com and ENHLive.com both posted undated articles that said Robinson will get paid the money for "services rendered as full-time/in-home caregiver," meaning she watched granddaughters Sasha and Malia Obama. Facebook flagged the stories as part of its efforts to combat fake news.

These stories lambaste the Obamas for allegedly abusing their power and wasting taxpayer money by taking advantage of the pension. But there is no pension for the first grandma — the story is fake, and originated on a website known for trafficking in fabricated news.

Robinson, a former bank secretary and stay-at-home mother to first lady Michelle Obama and her brother Craig, doesn't qualify for any kind of pension, because she's never been a federal employee. She did move into the White House in 2009 and has helped raise her granddaughters. But she didn't draw a salary and wasn't on any kind of government payroll for doing that.

There was no contact information for USPostman.com, and we received no response from ENHLive when we attempted to contact that site. But both articles mention elements found in an Oct. 17, 2016, article posted on the faux news site BostonTribune.com.

That fake story said that an unspecified Freedom of Information Act request provided documentation that Robinson would be getting the lifetime payment. There's no indication of what the request showed, or how they arrived at the $160,000 figure.

The story also said she likely qualified under the Civil Service Retirement Act. That is a benefits program for federal employees that our colleagues at FactCheck.org note is only for workers who started service before 1987. It has since been replaced by the Federal Employees Retirement System.

The false article makes oblique reference to the Former Presidents Act, which provides an annual pension for chief executives (plus Secret Service protection and some travel and transition expenses) after they leave office. For 2016 the pay level was $205,700, unless the former president holds an appointed or elected office in the federal government.

While presidential widows can qualify for $20,000 annual payments should their husbands die, there are no provisions to pay pensions to any other member of a former president's family.

The BostonTribune.com website doesn't appear to be working as of this writing. It was run by Associated Media Coverage, another website that also ran fake news, including one about several states enacting a two-pet limit that we rated Pants On Fire!

There's no indication that the story is true, but other websites continue to cite it as fact in various vitriolic posts. We rate this false assertion Pants On Fire!

Read more rulings at PunditFact.com.

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