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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Holiday Hoax About Obamas Resurfaces

Quick Take

The Obamas kept with tradition by displaying a Nativity scene in the White House for Christmas — contrary to what a viral falsehood claims.

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Holiday traditions have a way of carrying on for many years.

The same might be said of certain holiday-themed falsehoods — including those that have taken aim at former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama. Remember the false claim that the Obamas had a “Holiday tree” instead of a Christmas tree?

Another hoax — purporting that the Nativity scene wasn’t featured in White House decorations during the Obama administration — returned to Facebook in recent days, accruing tens of thousands of shares.

Melania has brought back the Nativity scene to the White House. It was cast aside by the Obamas,” a viral post reads, referring to first lady Melania Trump. “WE THANK HER!”

That’s false: The Obamas didn’t remove the Nativity scene — as Snopes made clear in 2016 and as People magazine pointed out in 2017.

While there was internal White House discussion during Obama’s first year in office about inclusivity and whether to display the crèche depicting Jesus’ birth, it was ultimately placed in its usual location in the East Room that year. And quick internet searches show the Obamas continued to do so throughout his presidency.

An HGTV photo gallery of White House Christmas decorations in 2016, for example, shows the crèche on display for the Obamas’ last Christmas in office.

Also, a Trump administration announcement about this year’s decorations noted the tradition of showcasing the crèche is in its 51st year — which includes the eight years under Obama. 

The crèche — made of terra cotta and carved wood, and created in Naples, Italy, in the late 18th century — was given to the White House in 1967 by philanthropist and art collector Jane Engelhard. In 1978, Engelhard donated another 10 figures for the model and provided funds for a new tableau, first displayed in 1999.

A similar Obama White House announcement about Christmas decor in 2015 also noted the crèche is as an annual fixture in the East Room, calling it a “long-standing holiday tradition.”

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.


2015 White House Holidays – A Timeless Tradition.” Press release, White House, Office of the First Lady. 2 Dec 2015.

Blackburn, Scott. “We Repeat, Still a Christmas Tree.” FactCheck.org. 10 Nov 2011.

East Room.” White House. 6 Dec 2001.

Jackson, Brooks. “‘Holiday Tree’ Hooey.” FactCheck.org. 14 Oct 2009.

Jane Engelhard, 86, philanthropist.” Associated Press. 5 Mar 2004.

Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. “The Spotlight’s Bright Glare.” The New York Times. 4 Dec 2009.

White House Christmas Tour 2016 – Part II.” HGTV.com. 2016.

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“Melania has brought back the Nativity scene to the White House. It was cast aside by the Obamas."
Tuesday, November 20, 2018