Trump is refusing to unveil Obama's portrait at the White House, breaking a 40-year tradition

Trump is refusing to unveil Obama's portrait at the White House, breaking a 40-year tradition
President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama prior to Obama's departure during the 2017 presidential inauguration at the US Capitol January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.Jack Gruber-Pool/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump will not hold a ceremony at the White House for the unveiling of former President Barack Obama's portrait, NBC News reported.
  • This marks a break from a 40-year tradition honored by presidents from both parties.
  • Trump and Obama have had an extraordinarily contentious relationship, which hit a new low in recent days as the current president has made unfounded accusations his predecessor committed an unspecified crime.

President Donald Trump is breaking a 40-year tradition and won't be unveiling former President Barack Obama's portrait at the White House, NBC News reported on Tuesday.

Obama would also not be interested in attending such an event, according to the report, which cited people familiar with the matter.

The White House and a representative for Obama did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider.


For decades, first-term presidents have held ceremonies in the East Room to unveil the portraits of their closest predecessor. Obama did so for former President George W. Bush in 2012, for example.

"George, you went out of your way, to make sure the transition to new administration was as seamless as possible," Obama said at the time.

Trump and Obama have perhaps the most contentious relationship of any current and former president in modern US history. In recent days, Trump has made baseless allegations that Obama committed an unspecified crime. Prior to his transition from reality TV to politics, Trump spent years perpetuating a racist conspiracy theory regarding Obama's place of birth.


Despite their rocky past, Obama wrote Trump an inauguration letter and left it in the desk drawer in the Oval Office. Trump in January 2017 said the letter was "beautiful." But this detente did not last long, as Trump has frequently blamed Obama for various issues he's faced as president — including for issues with testing for COVID-19, which did not exist until three years into Trump's presidency.

Obama has generally avoided the limelight since leaving the White House. In the rare instances in which he's criticized Trump, the former president has often done so without saying his successor's name. Over the weekend, Obama appeared to excoriate Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, but did not explicitly mention the current occupant of the White House.

"More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they're doing," Obama said during a virtual commencement address for 2020 high school and college graduates. "A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge."


Though Obama did not specifically mention Trump, the former president's comments were widely interpreted as a direct jab at his successor.

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