The claim: Barack Obama spent $65,000 on pizza and hot dogs, which are code names for child prostitution
The claim about former President Barack Obama has roots in "pizzagate," a debunked QAnon-esque conspiracy theory spawned during Hillary Clinton's second presidential campaign. It alleges that Clinton ran a child sex trafficking ring in the basement of Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, D.C., restaurant. In late 2016, a gunman fired into the restaurant after becoming convinced the theory was true, USA TODAY reported.
The claim surfaced on Facebook in an Aug. 8 post to user Amiri King's account. The post features a black-and-white image of a man holding a sign that reads, "Obama spent 65K on pizza and hot dogs!?"
The man in the picture is not identified, and he is wearing a mask.
"Well, assuming that ‘we are using the SAME channels,’" King, a YouTuber, wrote in the caption.
He is referencing a statement from an email chain between employees at Texas-based geopolitical intelligence company Stratfor. The chain was released by WikiLeaks in 2012.
“I think Obama spent about $65,000 of the tax-payers money flying in pizza/dogs from Chicago for a private party at the White House not long ago, assume we are using the same channels?” Stratfor employee Fred Burton wrote in an email posted to WikiLeaks' The Global Intelligence Files.
Users responding to King's Facebook post understood his meaning.
"Pizza" and "hotdogs" are "pedo (pedophilia)" codes, user Kathleen Theresa replied. Theresa also posted additional "pedo" code words. Among them, "hotdog = boy" and "pizza = girl."
"Rumor has it that hot dogs are pedo code for young boys and if you haven't heard about DC's pedo pizza parlor you're spending too much time hiding under a rock so, there's that," another user, Laura Benton, wrote.
King did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
WikiLeaks releases email chain
WikiLeaks claimed Stratfor is actually a front for a secret agency that provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations and the government, including agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Marines and the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to the WikiLeaks site.
The source of the claim is a chain of emails dated May 14, 2009, and titled "RE: Get ready for "Chicago Hot Dog Friday."
The chain includes Burton's statement about the Obama administration spending taxpayer money on pizza and hot dogs, as well as RSVPs to "Hot Dog Friday," but there is no proof that such a sum was spent on party food nor any reference to a specific party at the White House.
Burton may have alluded to a Super Bowl party held at The White House a few months earlier on Feb. 2, 2009. Pizza and hot dogs, along with chicken sandwiches, chips and salsa, pretzels and ice cream were served at the event, according to CNN. However, only 75 people attended, belying a sum of $65,000.
As a matter of corporate policy, Stratfor personnel "do not address the nature of the stolen Stratfor emails and other documents posted on Wikileaks, either to confirm or deny their validity," according to public relations director Emily Donahue.
Donahue also told USA TODAY the fallout from the leaked emails was so severe, the company completely changed its business model.
"Stratfor is now part of RANE (Risk Assistance Network + Exchange), a risk intelligence company. As a RANE company, Stratfor now serves clients with risk assessment and planning to avert breaches," she said.
Hot dog emails and pedophilia claims
The email chain's relationship to coded pedophilia language sprung from a conspiracy theory posted on InfoWars, the website for pundit and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' television and radio program.
During a taping of his television show on Aug. 1, 2018, Jones accused the Obama administration of keeping the FBI code words for kids out of a Homeland Security manual Media watchdog Media Matters for America – which describes itself as a "progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation" – posted the video to its website.
"I learned this with Pizzagate and stuff. You’ve got admissions and thousands of emails about the kids will be delivered into the hot tub for your pleasure and then it’s the FBI code words for sex with kids off their own Homeland Security manual and they’re talking about $65,000 of succulent hot dogs. 'Oh God, these are good. I had these hot dogs in Hawaii and they were delivered by jet.' It’s male prostitutes," Jones said.
InfoWars' Jamie White mentioned the Stratfor email chain in an article responding to criticism aimed at President Donald Trump after he served fast food to college football players during a reception at The White House in January 2019.
"The corporate media completely ignored WikiLeaks’ bombshell Global Intelligence Files release exposing government waste and corruption, but they have time to fact-check every aspect of Trump’s fast food feast, including the true height of the pile of burgers," White wrote.
Trump hosted the Clemson Tigers in commemoration of their college football national championship title, USA TODAY reported. Burgers from Wendy's, McDonald's, Burger King and other fast food were served. Then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump paid for the simple fare himself to cater the event because the partial government shutdown had put residence staff on furlough.
Our rating: False
We rate this claim FALSE because it was not supported by our research. The initial claim was based on a leaked email chain between employees of a private company, but the statement referencing $65,000 for pizza and hot dogs is unsubstantiated.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, Dec. 4, 2016: "Man fires rifle in D.C. restaurant at center of fake-news conspiracy theories"
USA TODAY, Jan. 4, 2019: "Clemson football team visits White House, greeted by President Donald Trump and fast food"
InfoWars, Jan. 15, 2019: "LEFT MOCKS TRUMP FAST FOOD FEAST — BUT OBAMA SPENT $65,000 ON HOT DOGS!"
Media Matters for America, Aug. 1, 2018: "Alex Jones: President Obama has been “having sex with 10 dudes a day” on taxpayer time"
WikiLeaks The Global Intelligence Files, Oct. 19, 2012: "RE: Get ready for "Chicago Hot Dog Friday"
CNN, Feb. 2, 2009: "Malveaux: Inside Obama's Super Bowl party"
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Barack Obama did not spend $65K on pizza and hot dogs