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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Leach sets off tweet storm with fake Obama video

Washington State coach Mike Leach set off a Twitter storm by posting a fake video of a speech from former President Barack Obama. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Washington State University football coach Mike Leach removed a controversial video with selectively edited comments by former President Barack Obama from his Twitter account Monday morning after setting off a tweet storm over passing along “fake news.”

A WSU official said Leach has the right to post whatever he wants on his own Twitter account, while distancing the university from the posts.

The edited and spliced video, which Leach posted Sunday, claims Obama told a European Union gathering that ordinary people can’t govern themselves and should “surrender their rights to an all powerful sovereign.”

On his private Twitter account, @Coach_Leach, the WSU coach urged people to listen to the video and text their thoughts, adding “There is a lot of disagreement on government, so I think that an open discussion is always in order … Maybe we can all learn something.”

The video, originally posted almost two years ago on a YouTube channel that describes itself as a collection of “American First and paleo-conservative populism channels,” erroneously claims it was a speech to the Bilderburger Group – a favorite whipping boy of those who believe in a one-world government conspiracy. In fact, Obama was speaking to a gathering of European Union leaders discussing youth. The video is also selectively edited to sound like Obama was saying something completely opposite of what he said in his full speech.

In answering Leach’s call for responses, many Twitter users pointed out the video was doctored, and he was passing along false information. He later tweeted “What is a fact?”

Monday morning, Leach took down his original posting, and posted a transcript of the full speech. “I agree that the video was incomplete. However, I believe discussion on how much or how little power our Gov should have is important.”

As the Cougar head football coach, Leach is scheduled to make $3.5 million this year, making him the second highest paid state employee, behind Husky head football coach Chris Peterson. Leach was a supporter of Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, appearing with the candidate at a Spokane rally that May.

In response to inquiries from local, regional and national news media, Phil Weiler, Washington State University vice president of marketing and communications, sought to distance the university from the comments.

“As a private citizen, Mike Leach is entitled to his personal opinions,” Weiler said in an email Monday morning. “Coach Leach’s political views do not necessarily reflect the views of Washington State University students, faculty and staff.”

In a followup interview, Weiler described Leach’s ability to post whatever he wants on his own social media account as a basic American right.

“At the end of the day, the coach, like any other private citizen, is able to post whatever he wants to post,” Weiler said. “That’s something we as Americans are proud of. Sometimes you agree with it, sometimes you don’t agree with it.”

Asked if the tweets could pose a marketing problem for WSU, Weiler said the university has released its statement and has nothing more to say about the matter.