FACT CHECK: Does This Photo Show Obama’s Columbia University ID Listing Him As A ‘Foreign Student’?

Matt Noel | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook more than 3,800 times purportedly shows former President Barack Obama’s student ID listing him as a “foreign student.”

Verdict: False

Another former Columbia student’s ID card has been doctored to feature a photo of Obama and the words “foreign student.”

Fact Check:

The viral image has made the rounds on social media repeatedly over the years, with this particular post being shared on Feb. 13. It purportedly shows the Columbia University student ID of Barry Soetoro listed as a “foreign student.”

Obama, who was born in Hawaii, used the last name Soetoro, the surname of his stepfather, as a boy in Indonesia but later stopped using it, according to The New York Times. (RELATED: Did Barack Obama Tweet, ‘Ask Ukraine If They Found My Birth Certificate’?)

He transferred from Occidental College after two years in 1981 to Columbia University, where there is no record of Obama ever going by Soetoro. In fact, an essay Obama published in the university’s weekly Sundial magazine has the byline “Barack Obama.”

The student ID card, Snopes reported, actually belongs to a former Columbia student named Thomas Lugert, whose ID number matches that in the post. It was digitally altered to have a photo of Obama and to replace the word “student” with the words “foreign student” after being posted online in 1998.

According to the Columbia University Record, the school didn’t start using digital ID cards like the one in the post until 1996. Their implementation took place after Obama graduated.

A Chicago Tribune photographer took the photo of Obama featured in the doctored student ID in 1999 while he was an Illinois state senator, according to its caption.

Matt Noel

Fact Check Reporter
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