Fact Check

What Obama Just Did to the White House Logo

President Obama hasn't altered the White House logo to replace the Stars and Stripes with a white flag; that logo element was modified during the George W. Bush administration.

Published Jun 29, 2016

President Obama altered the White House logo to replace the U.S flag with a white flag (commonly associated with surrender).

In late June 2016, a number of conservative web site including the Conservative Tribune and Red Flag News published articles with clickbait headlines reporting that President Obama had just done something to the White House logo that was an "outrage," "beyond the pale," or "would make you sick":

It’s no secret that Obama despises everything America stands for and what you are about to see is proof of this.

One needs to look no further than what the Muslim-in-Chief did to the White House logo, when he had it redesigned in 2009 immediately after he was sworn into office.

Davis at Conservative Tribune points out that almost everyone knows what the White House logo is supposed to look like — a portrait of the North Face of the White House — but what few people have noticed over the past few years was the change at the top of the logo.

For many years, the White House logo had the American flag flying on the top of the White House — as it does in real life. In Obama’s redesigned version, there is no American flag, just a white flag.

Typically included in such articles were two images; one showing the White House logo as it originally appeared before President Obama supposedly had his way with it, and the latter showing the Commander-in-Chief's "whitewashing" of the design:

wh logo obama

obama wh logo

Articles and critical blog posts published in June 2016 claimed the change "[had] many people wondering if Obama was trying to secretly signal to America’s enemies that he was surrendering."

But on 15 June 2016, the advertising industry publication AdWeek poked fun at conspiracy theories in an article eassying various errors in common depictions of the White House. AdWeek sourced much of their material from an April 2016 blog post published on Medium by the ad agency Hello Monday which was similarly written from a humorous perspective and provided some background regarding the agency's firsthand involvement with updating the White House logo:

Recently, a very important organization updated their logo, but hardly a peep was uttered — The White House. The world is obsessed with figuring out who will live in The White House next year, but visually they’ve been flying under the radar. So why are we so interested?

Shortly after we opened our NYC office in 2009, our friends at the now acquired Cuban Council invited us to join a project that seemed almost unreal — the redesign of The White House logo. Yes, The White House. As newly American, we were both anxious and eager to prove ourselves when we got the chance to prepare The White House for the digital world.

So we started researching.

After providing examples of prior versions of the White House logo, Hello Monday affirmed that elements such as the "white flag of surrender" found in the current logo had (despite all the June 2016 pearl clutching) been created in 2003 and had been used on the official White House web site since 2007, during the George W. Bush administration:

Ronald Reagan was the first to use the emblem of The White House. The emblem has been updated a couple of times since then.

When the first online version of whitehouse.gov saw the light of day in 1994, it didn’t use the emblem or any other version of the logo. The first version of the current logo was made in 2003 and appeared online for the first time in 2007, when the Bush administration launched a major redesign and since then the logo has been on every version of the site including the 2009 version that launched when Barack Obama was inaugurated.

A screen capture of the official White House web site from December 2007 proves that the blue-and-white logo antedates the Obama administration:


Indeed, the "white flag" White House logo was used at least as far back as September 2003 (during the administration of George W. Bush), when it appeared on the cover of a Progress Report on the Global War on Terrorism:


Hello Monday's president Andreas Anderskou was asked by AdWeek whether certain aspects of the White House logo that differ from literal depictions of the structure (i.e., "errors") were a form of copyright trap:

AdFreak reached out to the White House several weeks ago seeking comment; so far there has been none. (Yes, they have some more important stuff going on.) But Anderskou finds the whole thing intriguing.

"Long story short," he says, "it's fascinating that 1) an institution like the White House has a visual identity that's full of errors; 2) no one knows about the identity; and 3) the error we did might be part of the current logo."

Of course, on that latter point, we had to ask Anderskou: Did Hello Monday put those errors into its proposed designs on purpose, as a way to "watermark," and thus protect, its pitch work?

"No, we didn't make them on purpose," Anderskou insists. "It was just a fast turnaround, and we were a younger company back then with less quality control."

As AdFreak waits for a response from the White House, so does Anderskou. He recently wrote a letter to President Obama about the logo, offering to fix it. "It's a bit of mystery, but an exciting one!" Anderskou wrote. (We'll see if the president agrees.)

It's likely that June 2016 blog posts claiming President Obama had just "changed" the White House logo were inspired by the recent AdWeek article, which itself explicitly noted that the modification in question had occurred more than five years before Barack Obama was elected President.


Nudd, Tim.   "Why Are There Errors in the White House Logo, and How Did They Get There?"     AdWeek.   15 June 2016.

Hello Monday.   "The Race for the White House (Logo)."     18 April 2016.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.