In late April 2017, liberal web sites raised questions about whether President Donald Trump’s White House had invited primarily white children to the administration’s first Easter Egg Roll. Snopes readers, having looked at photographs from the event and compared them to previous years, wrote asking whether the 2017 event was less racially diverse than prior years.
After the event had concluded, shrewd observers noticed something very disturbing but was perhaps to be expected from the #AmericaFirst White Supremacy House.
The attendees were almost overwhelmingly white children. The reason? Donald and Melania chose not to invite the local DC public school children that traditionally are invited to the White House Easter Roll.
We published a fact check rating the claim “Unproven” because we were unable at the time to get information from the White House about who was invited, and which of the invitees chose to attend. After weeks of inquiry and a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, we still have no answer.
We were able to confirm that in 2017, the White House did not invite the three immediately-surrounding public school districts — representatives from D.C., Arlington and Alexandria public schools all told us they did not receive tickets to the event this year, unlike in previous years. As we reported at the time, all three public school districts surrounding the White House are racially diverse:
As of 2015, the latest figures available, Alexandria is 36 percent Hispanic, 29 percent black and 27 percent white. Arlington as of October 2016 is 47 percent white, 28 percent Hispanic and 10 percent black. D.C. Public Schools are predominantly African-American — 64 percent of the student body is black as of 2016, while 18 percent are Hispanic and 13 percent are white. (The District of Columbia overall is 48 percent African-American, with whites making up 44 percent and Hispanics totaling nearly 11 percent according to 2015 Census figures.)
Stephanie Grisham, Communications Director for First Lady Melania Trump, who planned the event, responded to our initial emails with a promise to get more information. However, seven email inquiries later, we have not received a definitive response. Our last email, sent 9 June 2017 to the White House Press Office went unanswered. We filed a FOIA request with the Secret Service, which keeps track of visitors to White House grounds, for a list of schools or districts that were invited to the event, and a list of which attended the event. They denied our request, saying the information was not in their purview.
Jordan Libowitz, spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) told us he’s not surprised the White House has refused to release the information, and that the failure to produce a list of those who attended the event is part of an unmistakable pattern when it comes to transparency:
This White House has broken precedent with past ones and decided they would not be sharing White House visitor logs. The fact they didn’t want to release this information is par for the course for them.
In mid-April 2017, the Trump administration announced it would no longer make visitor logs, which let the public know who is entering the White House, available. CREW has sued for visitor records from the White House and President Trump’s other two places of residence, Mar-a-Lago and Trump Tower. The preceding Obama administration released visitor logs publicly after CREW successfully sued them.
Weeks after trying to secure information about who was invited and who attended the 2017 Easter Egg Roll, we still don’t have an answer. Although it may anecdotally appear that the 2017 event was less diverse than previous ones, it’s unclear without knowing who received invites. We also don’t know whether a diverse crowd was invited but members of communities of color disproportionately declined to attend.
We do know, however, that three racially diverse public school districts that had in the past received tickets did not get any in 2017.