WASHINGTON -- A rumor that President Barack Obama will give a thousand bucks to everyone on food stamps has circulated so widely that one state government posted an official statement denying it.
"This rumor is 100% false," the Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services said on its website this week.
The rumor, different versions of which circulated on Facebook, claimed Obama would give $1,000 in nutrition assistance benefits if they called a number on the back of the debit cards used to distribute benefits.
The story earned a debunking from Snopes.com, a website that dispels urban legends, email chain letters and fake news stories. Snopes writer Kim LaCapria said the site was inundated with emails last week asking if the rumor was true.
LaCapria said this particular rumor is unusual in that it seemed to have spread organically on Facebook without having been initially made up by a fake news website. Snopes has previously debunked fake news stories claiming that everyone on welfare will get a free car and that Obama had signed legislation allowing people to use food stamps for alcohol and cigarettes.
"Fake news websites know that if they say 'food stamps' people will pass it around," LaCapria said. "It's a guaranteed viral thing."
With nearly 45 million recipients, the federal food stamp program -- formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- is one of the country's largest safety nets. It's also one of the most public, since people can see beneficiaries using their debit cards in line at the store. Outrage over how food stamps are used has been a staple of American politics for decades.
The Huffington Post reached out to three people who helped spread the rumor on Facebook, but none responded to messages sent through the social media site.
One woman said in a Facebook post that she found out about the rumor after a neighbor asked her to check it out for him.
"Believe little what you read or see on face book," she wrote, adding that people have made the site scandalous and trashy.