Fact Check

Did President Trump Replace Washington Portrait with Vigo the Carpathian?

Reports that the president was swapping out portraits on the White House walls with images of "Ghostbusters II" characters come from a relatively obscure purveyor of satire and hoax news.

Published Feb 1, 2017

President Trump replaced a White House portrait of George Washington with a painting of Vigo the Carpathian.

In late January 2017, the web site ImmediateSafety.org published an article appearing to report that President Donald Trump replaced an Oval Office portrait of George Washington with one of fictional "Ghostbusters II" antagonist Vigo the Carpathian:

Redecoration of the Oval Office is a tradition. Some presidents change the order of the artwork, the furniture, the paint, the wallpaper. Some even replace everything ... The most notable change is the addition of a mantle-to-ceiling portrait of Vigo the Carpathian in place of a portrait of George Washington over the fireplace. Who is Vigo the Carpathian, you ask?

Vigo the Carpathian (originally known as Vigo Von Homburg Deutschendorf) is an ancient 16th Century medieval tyrant and sorcerer, who later died in the 17th century. He was a despotic ruler who didn’t do his subjects any favors. He was also known as the “Scourge of Carpathia,” the “Sorrow of Moldavia” and a host of other unflattering names like “Vigo the Cruel,” “Vigo the Torturer,” “Vigo the Despised,” and “Vigo the Unholy.” He died at the ripe old age of 105 but not of old age. He was lynched by his subjects because of his role in the better part of a century’s maltreatment.

Asked about the painting, the Trump camp simply stated that it brought the leader of the free world a ‘measure of calm.’ We must admit that it is a rather striking and imposing painting but if it helps him work, so be it. One member of the White House press corps mentioned seeing the President talking to the painting, but presidential spokespeople dismissed that as fanciful nonsense.

Although the claim is straightforward satire based on the events of "Ghostbusters II," the site on which the claim appears is not a well-known purveyor of fake news. The film referenced in the article is decades old (and was relatively obscure, at least compared to its predecessor), allowing the joke to sail over the heads of younger readers.

ImmediateSafety.org does not prominently display disclaimers identifying it as a satirical web site, but a separate page contained the following remark:

Satire is protected speech, especially since you'd have to be some kind of moron to read anything you saw here and think it was serious (except for the things that are serious). If you do sue us, we'll counter sue for pain and suffering, and that is some real trouble for you. Best if you learn to take a joke and move on with life not being offended by everything.

In addition to this claim, the site boasts headlines such as "Bernie Sanders to Use Nickname 'Mango' in an Effort to Win the Phish Vote," "Confirmed: Hillary Clinton Murdered a Baby With a Hammer," and "DNC to Hand Debbie Wasserman Schultz Over to ISIS for Beheading."

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.