Obama's No-Flag Press Conference - Urban Legends

Is He the First President To Do So?

Viral messages circulating since May 2010 feature an image of Barack Obama holding a White House press conference with no American flags on display and claims he is the first U.S. president to do so. The claim further states that he spoke to the press while standing in front of a "Muslim prayer curtain."

No-Flag Analysis

It's true that there are no full-size American flags visible in news photos and video of President Obama's May 27, 2010 press conference addressing the BP oil spill.

It's also true that the settings of such events do typically include at least one U.S. flag. It's not true, however, that Obama is the first president to ever hold a press conference without U.S. flags on display.

Photos exist showing Ronald Reagan speaking to reporters in a flagless White House press room on more than one occasion. There are images of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon doing the same, George W. Bush sometimes held outdoor press briefings with no U.S. flags on display.

More to the point, the partisan narrative these messages convey — that of an "unpatriotic" President who "shuns the flag" because he is supposedly "ashamed of America" — is undermined by close-up photos taken at the same event which show Obama was wearing an American flag pin on his lapel.

Muslim prayer curtain? No.

As to the claim that the gold drapery seen behind President Obama during the May 2010 press conference is some kind of "Muslim prayer curtain" (is there such a thing?), tell that to former President George W.

Bush, who was photographed standing in front of it many times himself. The gold silk lampas curtains have hung in the East Room since the John F. Kennedy administration.

Here are some examples of the urban legend shared through Facebook and email.

Example #1
As shared on Facebook, Nov. 14, 2013


Example #2

Email contributed by Yvonne S., June 6, 2010

Subject: Fw: What is missing at Obama's press conference?

No, it is not the teleprompters. See the other presidents' pics for a clue. That's right ... no American flags!!!  And I don't believe it was just an accident! It is intentional. So I ask, why is it intentional? He told you he would change America, didn't he? Vote in November like your way of life depended on it!

Example #3

Email contributed by Becci B., June 4, 2010


Obama: First U.S. President to hold Press Conference without the American Flags Present

Posted on Friday, May 28, 2010 2:30:07 AM by Retired Intelligence Officer

Did anybody notice at President Obama's Press Conference on the Deep Water Horizon disaster that something was missing in the background? I noticed something didn't look right and then it hit me. The American Flags were missing behind. Why? Behind him was just yellow curtains and a couple of gold columns with chandeliers.

I went and researched and looked at all photos of many press conferences (not press briefings) of past presidents as far as I could go and low and behold the American Flags stood proudly behind the President or off to the side. What was the reason for this? This was Obama's first formal press conference since July of '09 and at that conference were U.S. Flags present. I am pretty sure this time that they had plenty of time to plan this and get it right?

So, maybe there was another motive for the flags' absence. We know Obama (or his handlers) carefully choreograph his image, his appearances...It's why he's so teleprompter-dependent. Surely he and his advisers know that flag issues have been a lightning rod -- even before he was elected. I think this was deliberate. Could it be that Obama really is ashamed of America? Could it be that he thinks he is the citizen of the world which has no flag? Ladies and gentlemen, this is very disturbing coming from the office of the Presidency. This is not normal to not have the symbol of the United States and its government in the east room of the White House and it is not very Presidential either. Many patriotic brave men and women have died under the stars and stripes called old glory. This fiasco coupled with the President skipping the laying of the Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery this Memorial Day speaks volumes of the man (or usurper) that sits in the Oval Office. What say you?

See also:

Does Obama Refuse to Salute Flag, Anthem?
Urban Legends, October 30, 2007

Obama (Supposedly) Explains Why He (Supposedly) Refuses to Salute the Flag
Urban Legends, April 10, 2010

The Truth About Obama's "Crotch Salute"
Urban Legends, November 23, 2009

Obama's Left-Handed Flag Salute
Urban Legends, January 6, 2010

Sources and further reading:

Obama Press Conference: "Anger and Frustration" Over Oil Spill
Christian Science Monitor, May 27, 2010

Brady Press Briefing Room
White House Museum