A new NBC report indicates both presidents would rather not partake in the longstanding White House tradition

By Sean Neumann
May 19, 2020 05:09 PM
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President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama
| Credit: Steve Pope/Getty; Mike Theiler-Pool/Getty

The longstanding hostility between Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama will end a White House tradition that has been observed for more than 40 years, according to an NBC News report.

The outlet reported Tuesday that Trump doesn't plan to host an unveiling ceremony at the White House for Obama's presidential portrait — and that Obama isn't interested in such a ceremony so long as Trump is in office. The absence of a ceremony would break a a longstanding tradition between sitting presidents and their predecessors that dates back to 1978.

Trump came to prominence as a political figure while Obama was president by repeatedly floating the baseless conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in the United States, despite the fact that Obama's birth certificate proves he was born in Hawaii.

For weeks, Trump has blamed the high death totals in the United States due to coronavirus on the Obama administration. He has also recently called members of the Obama administration "human scum," and he last week began floating another conspiracy theory, without providing evidence, that Obama was behind the "biggest political crime in American history."

Trump, 73, still has yet to say what crime he believes Obama, 58, committed.

"You know what the crime is," Trump told reporters at the White House earlier this month. "The crime is very obvious to everybody."

Obama has made a number of critiques about President Trump's coronavirus response over the past month but hasn't named Trump by name.

The former president tweeted in late April that the U.S. is still waiting on a "coherent national plan" in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. On Saturday, during his virtual 2020 commencement speech, Obama seemed to imply that Trump doesn't know what he's doing.

"All those adults that you used to think were in charge and knew what they were doing? It turns out that they don’t have all the answers," Obama told students. "A lot of them aren’t even asking the right questions."

President Donald Trump and President Barack Obama walk together on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017
The then-President-Elect Donald Trump shakes hands with President Barack Obama at the White House in November 2016
| Credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty

It's not clear when Obama's presidential portrait will be unveiled, NBC News reports. If Trump wins a second term in the November general election, the ceremony could be put off until 2025.

The feud between the presidents also impacts former First Lady Michelle Obama, who would have her portrait unveiled alongside her husbands if a ceremony were to take place.

Former First Lady and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said in 2004, when her portrait was hung, that the experience was "daunting."

"It is something that really does, more than any other act, sort of put your place in history in this building for all the ages and all the people who come through here to see and reflect upon," Clinton said, according to NBC.

Barack and Michelle Obama (center) standing in front of their Smithsonian portraits in Washington, D.C., along with artists Kehinde Wiley (left) and Amy Sherald (right).

President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush hosted the Clintons at the White House in 2004, while the first lady even hosted the Clintons for lunch while they were there.

The Obamas have their portraits hung up in Washington D.C. at the National Portrait Gallery, but those Smithsonian portraits are different from the presidential portraits that are commissioned for display at the White House.

The Obamas already picked artists to do their White House portraits and finalized contracts for the pieces in early 2017, but NBC reports the process ended there.

Spokespeople for the Obamas and the White House did not respond to PEOPLE's requests for comment.

President Obama and Mrs. Obama hosted the Bush administration's friends and family at the White House in 2012 for their portrait unveilings.

"We may have our differences politically," Obama said then, "but the presidency transcends those differences."

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