The truth behind the Obama-Schmidt selfie surfaces

December 11, 2013
Roberto Schmidt/AFP Photo/Getty Images
Roberto Schmidt/AFP Photo/Getty Images

Was Michelle Obama annoyed when her husband took that selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service? Roberto Schmidt, the Agence France-Presse photographer who snapped the photo of the president, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt, says no.

“I later read on social media that Michelle Obama seemed to be rather peeved on seeing the Danish prime minister take the picture,” Schmidt wrote on AFP’s blog. “But photos can lie. In reality, just a few seconds earlier the first lady was herself joking with those around her, Cameron and Schmidt included. Her stern look was captured by chance.”

The photo, which immediately became an Internet sensation, is only one piece of the day’s story; the leaders had a variety of expressions during the service and were acting “like human beings, like me and you,” he wrote. “I doubt anyone could have remained totally stony faced for the duration of the ceremony, while tens of thousands of people were celebrating in the stadium.”

The White House had no comment, reports our colleague Krissah Thompson, but released more images from the Obamas’ trip to South Africa. In several, the first lady is smiling.


President Obama waves to the crowd alongside his wife, first lady Michelle Obama.

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Michael Livingston · December 11, 2013