President Donald Trump, breaking with decades of White House tradition, reportedly will not host a ceremony unveiling the official portrait of his immediate predecessor amid burgeoning tensions with former President Barack Obama.
All U.S. presidents since Gerald Ford ― save for Jimmy Carter, who requested not to have a ceremony ― have returned to the White House at some point during their successor’s first term for an unveiling of their official portrait, NBC News reported. First ladies have traditionally also attended the ceremony and their portraits are unveiled as well.
But Trump has no plans to invite Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for such an unveiling, NBC and CNN reported this week. Further, the former president “has no interest in participating in the post-presidency rite of passage so long as Trump is in office,” NBC reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
If “Trump wins a second term in November, it could be 2025 before Obama returns to the White House to see his portrait displayed” in the East Room, the network added.
News of the apparent nixing of the portrait ceremony comes days after Trump accused Obama of an unspecified crime he dubbed “Obamagate” and after Obama’s swipe at Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in a video commencement address. Trump, who falsely claimed Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen before his election, has spent his presidency attacking Obama’s signature accomplishments and smearing his legacy.
White House portrait unveilings are among the few major events that typically bring former presidents together with the current White House occupant, journalist Kate Andersen Brower, author of “Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump,” told CNN.
But, Brower pointed out, the “level of animosity between a sitting president and his predecessors is unprecedented in modern history.”