By: Norman Dotson Jr./BNC Digital Media Producer – President Donald Trump will not be unveiling former President Barack Obama’s portrait at the White House, a break in the 40-year tradition following a contentious exchange between the two over the weekend.
Obama would also not be interested in attending such an event, according to several reports.
For decades, first-term presidents have held ceremonies in the East Room unveiling portraits of their immediate predecessors. Obama did so for former President George W. Bush in 2012.
Trump and Obama perhaps have the most contentious relationship of any current and former presidents in modern US history dating back to Trump’s days in reality TV as he spent years perpetuating a racist conspiracy theory regarding Obama’s place of birth.
Despite their rocky past, Obama wrote Trump an Inauguration Day letter in 2017 and left it in the desk drawer in the Oval Office with Trump calling it “beautiful.”
The peace did not last as Trump has frequently blamed Obama for various issues he’s faced as president, including issues with COVID-19 testing.
Obama generally avoids being in the public eye since leaving the White House and tends to keep his criticism of Trump minimal avoiding saying his successor’s name.
Over the weekend, Obama appeared to be critical of Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic but did not explicitly mention him.
“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 graduates of historically black colleges and universities. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
Though Obama did not mention Trump, the former president’s comments have been interpreted as taking a direct jab at his successor.
Even if both Trump and Obama were willing to participate in a portrait-unveiling ceremony, it’s possible the coronavirus pandemic could place limitations on it.
Similar ceremonies had occurred in the years before, such as when former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy returned to the White House in 1971 for the unveiling of the portraits of her and her husband, President John F. Kennedy.
The first formal portrait unveiling took place in 1978, when President Jimmy Carter invited his predecessor, President Gerald Ford, back to the White House for a ceremony in the East Room.