The official portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama received a wide array of reactions when they were unveiled on Monday. But none has been quite as insane as the one Sean Hannity promoted on his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon.
“Obama's portrait—a stark contrast to predecessors with inappropriate sexual innuendo,” the Fox News host tweeted, linking to a truly bizarre article on his website written by “Hannity Staff.”
“PORTRAIT PERVERSION: Obama Portrait Features ‘SECRET SPERM,’ Artist Joked About ‘Killing Whitey’” the headline screamed. And it only got weirder from there.
The article promises “shocking allegations” that the artist behind the former president’s portrait, Kehinde Wiley, “included ‘secret sperm cells’ within the painting and once joked about ‘Killing Whitey’ during an interview.”
The evidence for the former claim comes from a 2008 New York Times article—conveniently not “fake news” when it supports Hannity’s agenda—that reports Wiley’s portraits “initially depicted African-American men against rich textile or wallpaper backgrounds whose patterns he has likened to abstractions of sperm.” Hannity’s piece includes a close up of a vein in Obama’s forehead in the portrait that someone on his “staff” apparently thinks looks sperm-like.
It appears that the whole “sperm” theory originated on—where else?—4chan, where a thread was posted on Monday proclaiming, “Official Portrait of Obama has SPERM on his face!!!” That post just happened to include the same close up of Obama that Hannity used on his site.
As for the “Kill Whitey” part, that dates back to a quote Wiley gave New York magazine in 2012 about a painting in which a black woman holds the severed head of a white woman in the style of Biblical depictions by artists like Caravaggio. In other words, art.
The outrage echoed comments made by Hannity’s Fox News lead-in Tucker Carlson on Monday night about the “racially fraught decapitation portrait” by Wiley, who he mistakenly identified as female for some reason. “This is the person painting the Obamas’ portraits?” Carlson asked incredulously.
Evidently, this particular conspiracy theory was too crazy even for Hannity, who deleted both the tweet and the article just a couple of hours after they were posted.
But if he ever finds any evidence of bodily fluids in a portrait of Hillary Clinton, you can be sure he will let us all know.
UPDATE: In a statement provided by Fox News, Hannity told The Daily Beast: “Earlier today my web staff posted content that was not reviewed by me before publication. It does not reflect my voice and message and, therefore, I had it taken down.”