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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

We’ve received a number of queries about a photograph purporting to show President Obama at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day, listening to the national anthem without his hand over his heart.

Anyone who saw news coverage of Obama on Veterans Day might have smelled a rat right away: He didn’t wear a red tie that day, as he does in the picture, but a blue one, and he wore a winter coat over his suit. (We’ve seen some e-mails claiming that the picture is from the Ft. Hood memorial service. Obama did wear a red tie that day, but the memorial took place at Ft. Hood, against a backdrop of multiple flags including a prominent Air Force flag.) In fact, the picture was taken several months earlier, at a Memorial Day observation at Arlington National Cemetery.

And that’s only the beginning of what’s wrong with this picture. One of the chain e-mails attached to it reads in part: “I don’t know whether the National Anthem is being played, or the Flag is going by, or WHAT, but EVERYBODY in the picture is either saluting or has his hand over the HEART.” In fact, C-SPAN footage from the event shows that this photo was snapped just after Obama took the stage (around 11:16 on the video) — “Hail to the Chief” was playing, not the national anthem. The others on the podium aren’t saluting veterans or the nation; they’re saluting the commander in chief.

The video also shows Obama standing with his hand over his heart after the wreath-laying, while “Taps” is being played (starting at 1:04) and during the national anthem (13:16).