Claim: Images show President Obama disembarking from Marine One with a cell phone or coffee cup in his hand.
Examples: [Collected via e-mail, October 2012]
Origins: This image of President Obama talking on a cell phone and simultaneously saluting the military honor guard attendant at the landing of his aircraft while disembarking from Marine One (the call sign of any U.S. Marine Corps aircraft carrying the President, but generally used to refer to a helicopter operated by the
This photograph was commonly circulated in tandem with a picture of President
In September 2014 a similar Instagram-posted video was circulated showing President Obama disembarking from Marine One in New York with a coffee cup in his hand:
According to standard military protocol, the President of the United States does not return salutes from uniformed military personnel because, although the President holds the title of Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces, he is not himself a member of the military, nor does he wear a uniform. The tradition of U.S. presidents' regularly returning salutes is a fairly recent one which began with the administration of President Ronald Reagan in 1981:
In so doing, he wandered directly into the middle of a thorny debate: Should U.S. presidents return military salutes or not?
Longstanding tradition requires members of the military to salute the president. The practice of
Reagan's decision raised eyebrows at the time. John Kline, then Reagan’s military aide and now a Minnesota congressman, advised him that it went against military protocol for presidents to return salutes.
Kline said in a 2004 op-ed piece in The Hill that Reagan ultimately took up the issue with
Barrow told Reagan that as commander in chief of the armed forces, he was entitled to offer a salute — or any sign of respect he wished — to anyone he wished, Kline wrote, adding he was glad for the change.
Every president since Reagan has followed that practice, even those with no military experience.
The debate over saluting has persisted, with some arguing against it for protocol reasons, others saying it represents an increasing militarization of the civilian presidency.
"The gesture is of course quite wrong: Such a salute has always required the wearing of a uniform," author and historian John Lukacs wrote in The
In a 1986 speech delivered to military families in Iceland, President Reagan explained how he came to begin the practice of returning military salutes while President:
So, if you see me on television and I'm saluting, you know that I've got authority for it now — [laughter] — and I do it happily.
Last updated: 23 September 2014