Russian Pranksters Feature Obama In Fake Anti-Smoking Ad

Feb 22, 2016
Originally published on February 24, 2016 10:01 am

There was a hubbub last week in Russia over an anti-smoking poster that featured President Obama.

The poster, spotted at a Moscow bus stop, warned that "smoking kills more people than Obama."

As it turned out, the ad was a fake, but it became a hugely successful anti-American prank on the Internet. The fake ad featured a rather sinister-looking image of President Obama, with the photo manipulated so it appeared that he was taking a drag on a cigarette butt.

The president said in 2013 that he had quit smoking six years earlier.

A white headline said "Smoking kills more people than Obama, although he kills a lot of people. Don't smoke! Don't be like Obama!"

The ad appeared on a glass-enclosed ad board on one end of a bus shelter in north central Moscow. It got immediate attention when Dmitry Gudkov, a member of Parliament, posted a photo of it on his Facebook page.

Gudkov, a frequent critic of the Russian government, said he was "disgusted and ashamed of what appears on the streets of the Russian capital."

Suddenly, it was all over the Russian media and appearing in foreign news reports.

The poster didn't say who had created it and no group has taken responsibility, but many of those reports treated it as part of an anti-smoking campaign.

The people in charge of advertising on the Moscow bus system say there was apparently only one poster and that pranksters pried open the advertising box and put the Obama image inside.

At the bus stop itself, nobody there had even seen the poster during the short time before it was removed.

Ilnur Sundukov, a 28-year-old looking for a job in personnel management, says it was a stupid idea.

"It's not about smoking," he says, "but about politics."

And as for Obama being a killer, "No," he says. "On the news, they tell lies. Take Ukraine, Russia, America — it's all invented to make a conflict and start a war."

Most people we talked with thought the poster was a political stunt, but some believed it was quite right about Obama.

It's not the first time this kind of prank has been used to smear the American president. Last month, a pro-Kremlin group hung a huge banner on a building across from the U.S. Embassy.

It looked like Obama's 2008 election poster, except that the word "hope" had been replaced by the word "killer."

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Wow - a poster featuring President Obama has caused a stir in Russia and beyond. It was supposedly an antismoking poster spotted at a bus stop in Moscow. The poster warned that smoking kills more people than Obama. Turns out the ad was a fake, but that didn't stop it from going viral on social media. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: The fake ad featured a sinister-looking image of President Obama with the photo manipulated so it looked like he was taking a drag on a cigarette. It appeared here, on a glass-enclosed ad board at one end of a bus shelter in north-central Moscow. A white headline said, smoking kills people than Obama, although he kills a lot of people. Don't smoke. Don't be like Obama. The ad got immediate attention when Dmitry Gudkov, a member of Parliament, posted a photo of it on his Facebook page. Gudkov, a frequent critic of the Russian government, said he was disgusted and ashamed of what appeared on the streets of the Russian capital. Suddenly, it was all over the Russian media and appearing in foreign news reports as well. The poster didn't say who created it and no group has taken responsibility, but many of those reports treated it as part of a real anti-smoking campaign. The people in charge of advertising on the Moscow bus system say there was apparently only one poster and that pranksters pried open the advertising box and put the Obama image inside. At the bus stop itself, we couldn't find anyone who'd even seen the poster during the short time before it was removed. Ilnur Sundukov, a 28-year-old who's looking for a job in personnel management, says it was a stupid idea.

ILNUR SUNDUKOV: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: "It's not about smoking," he says, "but about politics." And as for Obama being a killer...

SUNDUKOV: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: "No," he says. "On the news, they tell lies. Take Ukraine, Russia, America, it's all invented to make a conflict and start a war." Most people we talked with thought the poster was a political stunt but one that got a whole lot of people talking. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.