A president’s performance is often compared to that of his predecessors. Although such comparisons can provide valuable historical insights, they can also be misleading or even, as in the case below, completely fabricated using cherry-picked, dated, and incongruous images.
This collage purporting to depict four different presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump) celebrating the 4th of July was widely shared by Trump’s critics just after Independence Day 2018:
There is no mistaking the message: President Trump is shown relaxing on a golf course, while the three former presidents are shown visiting U.S. service members, purportedly on one of America’s most patriotic holidays.
This is not a complete or accurate portrayal of how these former and current presidents celebrated Independence Day, however. None of these photographs were taken on the 4th of July 2018 (or any other 4th of July), and the image of Trump predates his presidency by several years.
Beginning at the top left, the photograph of Bill Clinton was taken on 13 January 1996 and is available via Getty Images. The caption for this image states:
President Bill Clinton reaching to shake hands in crowd of US soldiers, visiting troops on peacekeeping mission, enforcing US-brokered peace accord in civil war-torn former Yugoslav republic.
The image of George W. Bush (top right) was taken on 24 July 2001 at Camp Bondstseel in Kosovo. The image is available via the U.S. Department of Defense web site, where it is accompanied by the following caption:
President George W. Bush shakes hands with American soldiers during his visit to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo on July 24, 2001. Bush is visiting the Task Force Falcon soldiers to show support for the troops in Kosovo. The president signed the fiscal year 2001 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations legislation which contains $1.9 billion for military pay, benefits and health care among other categories during his visit.
The photograph of President Obama (bottom left) was taken during a visit to Afghanistan on 25 May 2014. The image, which is available via the Obama White House Flickr page, is accompanied by this caption:
President Barack Obama shakes hands with U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Lastly, the image of President Trump (bottom right) was taken on 27 June 2012 in Bethesda, Maryland. It was taken by Patrick Semansky of the Associated Press and is captioned:
Donald Trump tosses a ball while standing on the 14th fairway during a pro-am round of the AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club, Wednesday, June 27, 2012, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Despite the fact that the photo of Trump playing golf is six years old, the accompanying claim that he spent at least part of his 4th of July in 2018 golfing is, in fact, true. Press reports had him on the golf course for four hours that morning. But that’s not to say that his choice of Independence Day activities was aberrant compared to those of previous presidents.
Trump isn’t the only president to have spent the holiday pursuing leisure activities. Dwight D. Eisenhower, for instance, was known to play golf on Independence Day, and George H.W. Bush typically spent the day either vacationing or attending parades. Barack Obama, too, golfed over 4th of July weekend in 2015 (though it was on the 3rd, not the 4th).
Besides making time for a round of golf, Trump’s 4th of July schedule, like that of many of his predecessors, also included hosting an event at the White House for members of the military, as noted in USA Today‘s recap of the president’s holiday activities:
“Melania and I are honored to celebrate American independence with the heroes who protect American independence,” Trump told troops and family members who gathered on the White House lawn for barbecue and fireworks.