Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday deleted a tweet and an article on his website that claimed that former president Barack Obama's official portrait contained "inappropriate sexual innuendo" and a hidden image of sperm.
Hannity's post, "PORTRAIT PERVERSION: Obama Portrait Features ‘SECRET SPERM,’ Artist Joked About ‘Killing Whitey’," said that "industry insiders claiming the artist secretly inserted his trademark technique — concealing images of sperm within his paintings."
The byline for the post was "Hannity Staff."
The post focused on a detail of the portrait just above the former president's left eyebrow, implying that the visible vein resembled a sperm cell.
The article read, in part:
Controversy surrounding Kehinde Wiley’s wildly non-traditional portrait of the Commander-in-Chief broke out within minutes of its unveiling; with industry insiders claiming the artist secretly inserted his trademark technique -concealing images of sperm within his paintings.
But the vein is visible in a number of pictures of former President Obama.
The Fox News host also tweeted a link to the article to his 3.24 million followers and said, "Obama's portrait — a stark contrast to predecessors with inappropriate sexual innuendo." He later deleted the tweet.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Hannity said the article was not reviewed by him prior to publication:
Earlier today my web staff posted content that was not reviewed by me before publication. It does not reflect my voice and message and, therefore, I had it taken down.
The right-wing sites Infowars and the Daily Caller published articles the day after Hannity's that also harp on the portrait's vein.
People on Twitter, in addition to making fun of Hannity, pointed to a 4chan thread from earlier in the day as the possible source of his inspiration.
The original post read, "While we have been having fun with the really bad official portraits of king and queen ni**er today, this one takes the cake.
"While it is well known that the artist who painted the portrait is obsessed with sperm and puts it all of his work, it appears his portrait of Obama is no exception. You cannot deny that on his forehead there is a representation of a sperm cell.
"Best timeline lads. All hands on deck. Let's get this in the news."
Kehinde Wiley has previously painted free-floating sperm cells into some of his works featuring young black men, but those were much more explicit, tadpole-shaped sperm that were scattered across the painting's background.
The artist did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his Obama portrait.
Hannity and others also seized on the fact that Wiley has previously painted black women holding the heads of white women in a reference to the biblical story of Judith and Holofernes, a frequent subject matter in Renaissance art.
In an 2012 interview with New York magazine, Wiley said the paintings were "sort of a play on the ‘kill whitey’ thing."
Wiley is renowned for remixing classical themes and paintings in a contemporary style that features black people.
Blake Montgomery is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Blake Montgomery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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