The image was created by a student at UIC. But he had no idea his art was being used to make a political statement.
Artist Firas Alkhateeb wanted to make one thing clear from the very beginning. He did make Barack Obama look like the Joker in the image. But he did not add the caption that says 'socialism.' Someone else did that. Regardless, he now finds himself in the center of a firestorm.
President Obama pictured as the Joker is one of the hottest rants on the internet these days. YouTube clips show posters going up in LA, San Francisco and beyond with captions reading socialism, facism and more.
"As I understand it, this is the first thing that came out like this, first big anti-Obama thing, so people really look at it like it's something that's revolutionary," said Alkhateeb.
Firas Alkhateeb is a 20-year-old senior history major at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He calls himself an accidental artist. He says he was playing around with Photoshop months ago and turned a Time magazine cover of President Obama into the Joker from "The Dark Knight."
It went practically unnoticed on his Web page until someone else copied it, added the word 'socialism' and it became a sensation.
"I never thought that it would get to this point. I thought maybe a couple of people would see it on Flickr," said Alkhateeb.
"You shouldn't do that. You wouldn't do that of your mother or your father," said Carole Christian.
Though the president's popularity numbers have gone down, no one ABC7 showed the image to on Wednesday liked it.
"This is the President of the United States, okay. Some countries you would be shot, you would be killed for doing things like this," said Emma Chinn.
"Don't like it," said Gary Gudac.
Alkhateeb is a Palestinian-American born in the United States. He says he's neither a Democrat nor Republican and came just short of a full apology to the president in our interview.
"I would like President Obama to know that I didn't intend for any of this to happen and of course we're all Americans and we're all rooting for him and we're all hoping he does a great job," said Alkhateeb.
Alkhateeb says he's taken a lot of heat for creating the image, and the worst of it has come from his mother. He hopes to become a high school history teacher someday. Alkhateeb says he never could have created this viral storm if he had tried to. But he says it sure has taught him about the power of the internet.