On 30 April 2016, the web site Departed.co published a clickbait article claiming that American flags were removed from a Pearl Harbor memorial at President Obama’s request. The piece had no context beyond a series of photographs of what they said was the flag being taken down.
While Departed.co published several photographs of the memorial — some of which included a flagpole, while others were taken after the flagpole was removed — they provided little information about the memorial or the flag’s removal. No photographs showed any proof, even by inference, that President Obama was either present or responsible for the order:
As it turns out, there’s also a good reason that President Obama was not shown in any photographs: this didn’t even take place during Barack Obama’s presidential term. The images were first posted in 2007 by the web site CapVeterans.com.
A couple of years previously, the Honolulu Advertiser had reported that Pearl Harbor was undergoing major renovations and that some veterans were worried about potential changes:
The memorial’s visitor center is overburdened — the lines to bathrooms there are the stuff of legend — and the National Park Service would like to expand its facilities.
(Hawai’i entrepreneur Patrick) Brent said he transformed “a filthy parking lot with broken glass and a high crime rate” into a respite for visitors. “Every time we put out a chair, someone sits down,” Brent said.
But aging survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor have frequently complained to Brent about his for-profit organization. One veteran told him that the sailors entombed in the USS Arizona are crying because he is selling cola, Brent said. “They attack us because of the respect thing. There is no one in this neighborhood more respectful than myself and my people.”
We have reached out to the National Park Service for details about this incident, but it’s clear that the flagpole’s removal had more to do with renovations than politics. Regardless of why it was removed, the flagpole was not taken down on the orders of President Barack Obama.