Trump Won’t Be Unveiling Obama White House Portrait, Says Report

by : Lucy Connolly on : 19 May 2020 17:52
Trump Won’t Be Unveiling Obama White House Portrait, Says ReportTrump Won’t Be Unveiling Obama White House Portrait, Says ReportPA Images

Donald Trump is refusing to take part in a decades-long tradition that sees first-term presidents unveil the portrait of their closest predecessor in the White House, according to a new report.


The current president of the United States looks set to shun the event, which would see him holding a ceremony in the East Room to unveil a portrait of Barack Obama. This will be the first time a president has refused since the 1970s.

According to people familiar with the matter, it could be 2025 before Obama gets his portrait displayed among every other US president if Trump wins a second term in November this year.

Barack ObamaBarack ObamaPA Images

Trump is apparently ‘unconcerned’ about breaking the 40-year tradition, NBC News reported today, May 19. And according to the report, Obama also has no interest in participating in the event as long as Trump is in office.


It’s no secret Trump and Obama don’t get along; in fact, they have perhaps the most controversial relationship of any current and former president in modern US history – which most recently saw Trump make unfounded accusations that Obama committed an unspecified crime.

Regardless, such an event is entrenched in tradition and presidents are usually expected to go along with it in spite of their differences – with Republican presidents having previously done it for Democratic presidents, and vice versa.

President Donald TrumpPresident Donald TrumpPA Images

For example, while hosting former President George W. Bush for his portrait unveiling in 2012, Obama said: ‘We may have our differences politically, but the presidency transcends those differences.’

It seems the presidency no longer transcends those differences though, at least not in Trump’s case, with the president turning his back on Obama for good. Well, aside from all of the jibes and feeble attempts to discredit him online, that is.

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said in the report:

You’ve got a president who’s talking about putting the previous one in legal jeopardy, to put it nicely. We have not seen a situation like that in history. It takes antipathy of a new president for a predecessor to a new level.

Barack Obama and MichelleBarack Obama and MichellePA Images

Official White House portraits are separate from the presidential portraits that hang in the National Portrait Gallery, where portraits of the Obamas’ were unveiled two years ago.

The process for the White House portraits typically begins near the end of a president’s term or shortly thereafter, with the process usually taking a few years to complete. After the president and first lady choose an artist, a contract is negotiated before the process can even begin.

Barack and Michelle Obama did select an artist and a contract was finalised in early 2017, according to the report. However, the process stalled there, people familiar with the issue said.

Typically, the next step would be to schedule sittings for the former president and first lady, with the portraits delivered to the White House curator once the portraits have been approved by the couple.

Barack Obama Donald TrumpBarack Obama Donald TrumpPA Images

That never happened though, and as of yet it’s not known when the Obamas’ portraits will sit alongside those of their predecessors.

Katie Hill, a spokesperson for Obama, declined to comment on the matter. The White House also declined to comment.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: News, America, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Politics, UA, white house


NBC News
  1. NBC News

    White House portrait ceremony may be the latest casualty of the political divide