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Look Out for Unsubstantiated Claims About Cocaine at the White House

Without citing evidence, some social media posts claimed the illegal substance was left there by Hunter Biden, the president's son.

Published Jul 5, 2023

Updated Jul 6, 2023
 (Anadolu Agency/Contributor, Getty Images)
Image Via Anadolu Agency/Contributor, Getty Images

On July 2, 2023, a "suspicious powder" was found inside the White House. Tests later showed the powder was cocaine, according to reputable news publications.

After that news broke, social media posts about the discovery rapidly spread, with various degrees of legitimacy. We found posts on Twitter, Reddit, TikTok, and Facebook making various claims about where the illicit substance was found and to whom it allegedly belonged. For instance, the below-displayed post claimed the cocaine was found in an area often occupied by U.S. President Joe Biden, while other posts asserted that the drug was left behind by his son, Hunter Biden.

The claim that one of the Bidens was responsible for the cocaine was unsubstantiated. Below, we outline the known facts regarding the location of the cocaine's discovery and its possible owner based on reporting by reputable news outlets such as The Associated Press (AP) and The Washington Post. The Secret Service's investigation to determine how, or under what circumstances, the cocaine was left by someone in the White House remains ongoing.

Where Was the Cocaine Found?

We found social media posts that claimed the cocaine was found in various places around the White House, such as the above-displayed Facebook post that claimed it was found in an area where President Biden often worked. One popular rumor was that the drug was found in the White House library. 

"They found cocaine in the White House Library???," a Twitter post said on July 4, 2023.  "America is FINISHED."

We also found that rumor about the library on Reddit and TikTok

In reality, the cocaine was discovered in a common area of the West Wing, according to several reputable publications, including AP and CBS News. According to Reuters, the West Wing includes the Oval Office, cabinet room and work space for presidential staff.

White House Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed to reporters on July 5, 2023, that there had been tours during the weekend the cocaine was discovered at the White House, including tours held on the same day. "Where this was discovered is a heavily traveled area where many White House -- West Wing, I should be even more specific, West Wing visitors come through this particular area," Jean-Pierre said.

The Washington Post reported that the area was near boxes where White House staff instruct visitors to leave their phones before entering the West Wing.

According to the AP, Secret Service agents discovered the substance while doing a routine security scan of the building. NBC reported the drug was in a small, zippered bag, and that it was unclear how long it had been in the White House.

The claim that the cocaine was found in the White House library was bolstered by initial reports stating the substance was found in a library, citing a dispatch call to D.C. Fire and EMS Services as evidence. Secret Service spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi told The New York Times that the dispatch call was incorrect.

Later, in an email to Snopes, he confirmed the cocaine wasn't found in a library and was instead found "in an area of the West Wing."

Following the discovery, the White House was temporarily evacuated. Preliminary tests by the D.C. Fire Department identified the substance as cocaine, which was sent for further testing while the White House was reopened. The Washington Post reported final tests confirmed the initial ones' findings: The substance was cocaine. 

The Bidens were not at the White House when the powder was discovered. According to the AP, the president and his family — including Hunter Biden — left for Camp David, a presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland, on June 30, 2023. They returned to the White House on July 4, 2023.

To Whom Did the Cocaine Belong?

As of this writing, who the cocaine belonged to is unknown. News publications like CNN, The Hill, and the AP reported officials were working to identify who was responsible for bringing the substance into the federal building.

NBC reported the "blurry timeline" could make it difficult for investigators to identify a source. Additionally, investigators were considering the high volume of people who walk through the area.

As the investigation continued, many posts claimed without evidence that the cocaine belonged to Hunter Biden, who previously discussed being addicted to crack cocaine in a 2021 memoir.

"Hunter Biden had cocaine at the White House," a Twitter post said on July 5, 2023. "Why is nobody talking about this?"

We found similar posts with the claim on platforms such as Reddit and TikTok, as well.

Those posts were not factual. At the time of publication, there was no credible evidence to link the drug found in the White House to any individual or group, much less the president's son.

 

Sources

Alba, Monica et al. "Secret Service Investigating 'white, Powdery Substance' Found in West Wing." NBC News, 4 July 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/secret-service-investigating-white-powdery-substance-found-west-wing-rcna92521.

Gangitano, Alex. "Secret Service: Substance Found at White House Was Cocaine." The Hill, 5 July 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/4081787-secret-service-substance-found-at-white-house-was-cocaine/.

Liptak, Kevin. "Lab Tests Show Substance Found at White House Was Cocaine | CNN Politics." CNN, 5 July 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/07/05/politics/white-house-cocaine-found/index.html.

Long, Colleen et al. "Powder Found in White House's West Wing Lobby Tests Positive for Cocaine." AP News, 5 July 2023, https://apnews.com/article/white-house-cocaine-west-wing-secret-service-6b8aae2c55e5c1ecf860a70a0533dbed.

Long, Colleen et al. "The Secret Service Found Cocaine at the White House, AP Sources Say." AP News, 4 July 2023, https://apnews.com/article/white-house-suspicious-substance-cocaine-bd7a792357a85453cf55b6c955ff1b4f.

O'Donnell, Kelly and Megan Lebowitz. "Lab Test Confirms White Substance Found at the White House Is Cocaine." NBC News, 5 July 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/lab-test-confirms-white-substance-found-white-house-cocaine-rcna92660.

Pager, Tyler, and Peter Hermann. "Cocaine Found in White House near Where Guests Enter West Wing." Washington Post, 5 July 2023. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/07/05/cocaine-white-house-investigation/.

Quinn, Melissa and Nicole Sganaa. "Substance Found in White House Confirmed to Be Cocaine - CBS News." 5 July 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/white-house-cocaine-west-wing-secret-service-investigation/.

Rahman, Khaleda. "Does Hunter Biden Live at the White House? What We Know." Newsweek, 4 July 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/does-hunter-biden-live-white-house-1810779.

Rogers, Katie. "Secret Service Examining How Suspected Cocaine Ended Up at the White House." The New York Times, 4 July 2023. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/04/us/politics/white-house-cocaine-white-substance.html.

Updates

July 6, 2023: This article was updated with a response from the Secret Service.

Izz Scott LaMagdeleine is a fact-checker for Snopes.

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