Fact Check

Presidents with Binoculars

Photos show Presidents Clinton and Bush peering through binoculars with lens caps on

Published Nov. 4, 2002


Claim:   Photographs show Presidents Clinton and Bush peering through binoculars with the lens caps still in place.

Status:   Undetermined.


[Collected via e-mail, 2001]


The picture on the left is of Bill Clinton. The picture on the right is of George W. Bush.

Both pictures were taken at the Korean DMZ. What is at issue is that one of the two didn't have enough sense to remove the lens caps from the binoculars before the photo opportunity.

Perhaps one of them was more interested in posing and too clueless to ask why everything was black, while the other was simply interested in seeing.

[Collected via e-mail, 2001]


Origins:   The photographs above have been a favorite item of political humor on web sites since for years, the first appearing in 2001 and the next one following a year later.


real or manipulated, these photographs don't necessarily demonstrate anything beyond the trivial: As much as we may enjoy poking fun at our politicians for being so clueless that they don't know binoculars don't work with the lens caps in place, hardly anyone among us hasn't accidentally raised a capped pair of binoculars to his eyes for a few moments before realizing the problem; the difference is that most of us don't have a crowd of photographers hanging around us all day long just waiting to snap such a picture of the moment.

Also, there are reasons why binoculars (especially types used by the military) shown in a photograph might appear to be capped when they really aren't: the lenses could be coated with a non-reflective material to cut down on glare and prevent gleams of light from reflecting off the lens and revealing one's position to the enemy, or the binoculars could be NVD (night vision devices) which also work in daylight (provided they have caps with small holes in place to block out most of the light).

Another photograph of President Bush taken from the same sequence as the one above demonstrates that even if his binoculars did initially have their lens caps in place, they weren't there for long:


In February 2007, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz was ridiculed in the press for reportedly viewing military maneuvers through binoculars with the lens caps still in place:

According to the BBC, the photographer who snapped the picture said that Peretz peered through the capped binoculars several times, on each occasion nodding as Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi (the Israeli army's chief of staff) explained what he was viewing.

Last updated:   23 February 2007

  Sources Sources:

    BBC News.   "Israeli Minister in Vision Gaffe."

    23 February 2007.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.