Pants on Fire!
Chain email
"Ever wonder why no one ever came forward from Obama's past, saying they knew him, attended school with him, was his friend, etc.? Not one person has ever come forward from his past."

Chain email on Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 in a chain e-mail

Obama’s former “girlfriends” sought by conspiracy theorists in chain e-mail

The conspiracy theorists out there want to know where President Barack Obama’s former girlfriends are.

A chain e-mail circulating in New Jersey raises that question and others about the allegedly murky past of the man sitting in the Oval Office. Americans know "every little tidbit about every other president," but Obama’s past remains a mystery, according to the e-mail.

"Ever wonder why no one ever came forward from Obama's past, saying they knew him, attended school with him, was his friend, etc.?" the e-mail states. "Not one person has ever come forward from his past."

It’s amazing this e-mail was even sent over the Internet, because PolitiFact New Jersey found that it only takes a few Google searches to realize how ridiculous the claim is.

In books and various other media accounts, friends and former classmates have provided memories of the future president, from body surfing in California and cooking in a New York City apartment to running the Harvard Law Review.

Our PolitiFact colleagues gave a Pants on Fire to a similar claim from Donald Trump, who said Obama’s former classmates "never saw him" and "don’t know who he is." In that ruling, PolitiFact outlined different news articles with people remembering Obama.

So, let’s review some of what PolitiFact New Jersey found:

Obama began his higher education in 1979 at Occidental College, a small liberal arts college in Los Angeles. In a video interview with The Gazette in Colorado, Barbara Thummalapally recalled how she and her husband became friends with Obama at Occidental.

After partying until about 4 a.m. one weekend, Thummalapally said, "Barack says, ‘Oh, I got to go to my room, and they’re like, ‘Why are you leaving now?’ He said, ‘Well, I’ve got a paper to write.’"

One of Obama’s freshman roommates at Occidental, Paul Carpenter, also "recalled Obama as ‘a good bodysurfer’ who had ‘a funky red car, a Fiat’ and who also played intramurals — flag football, tennis and water polo," according to a May 2008 Associated Press story.

In 1981, Obama transferred to Columbia University and shared an apartment with Phil Boerner. In a 2009 column in Columbia College Today, Boerner wrote about living with Obama and spending time with him in New York City.

Regarding their apartment’s irregular heat, Boerner wrote: "When the heat wasn’t on, we sometimes sat with sleeping bags or blankets wrapped around ourselves and read our school books. We also didn’t have regular hot water and sometimes used the Columbia gym for showers."

Sohale Siddiqi, who also shared an apartment with Obama during his time in the city, recalled how women thought Obama was a "hunk," according to that Associated Press story.

"You know how it is. You go to a bar and you try hitting on the girls," Siddiqi told the Associated Press. "He had a lot more success. I wouldn't outcompete him in picking up girls, that's for sure."

More recollections can be found from Obama’s years at Harvard Law School between 1988 and 1991, where he would meet several individuals who later joined his transition team.

Harvard classmate Cassandra Butts, who served as the team’s general counsel, spoke of Obama’s Harvard experience in a 2008 interview on the PBS show Frontline:

"He was very mature, and he was very directed. He knew what he wanted to do: get his law degree and learn as much as he possibly could and take that experience back to Chicago and work in the same communities that he had worked as an organizer."

Our ruling

A chain e-mail making the rounds in New Jersey claims "no one ever came forward from Obama’s past, saying they knew him, attended school with him, was his friend."

As various news accounts indicate, this claim is bogus. Friends and former classmates have participated in numerous interviews, telling tales of Obama’s years leading up to his run for the White House.

That’s why this chain e-mail deserves just three words: Pants on Fire!

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