Fact Check: There Is NO Rule That Says No Flag Flying Over The White House Means The Military Is In Control -- And Flag Flew On Inauguration Day 2021

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: There Is NO Rule That Says No Flag Flying Over The White House Means The Military Is In Control -- And Flag Flew On Inauguration Day 2021 No Rule

Is no American flag flying over the White House a signal the military is in control? No, that's not true: A claim has gone viral that no White House flag means there is "selective martial law or that the president has signed the Insurrection Act." There is no publicly available record of a signal involving the American flag not flying over the White House, which it does 24 hours a day, seven days a week per a presidential proclamation signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970. In the undated photo used with the claim posted on Inauguration Day, it appears the flagpole had been pivoted on its base to lie pole horizontal and a cluster of humans stands at the free end of the pole. The White House live cam clearly showed it vertical, with a flag flying, the evening of January 20, 2021.

The claim appeared as a post (archived here) where it was published on Facebook on January 20, 2021. It opened:

When there is no flag flying over the White House it means that the power has been turned over to the military.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Jan 20 23:14:08 2021 UTC)

The full text on the meme read:

When there is no flag flying over the White House it means that the power has been turned over to the military. This means selective martial law or that the president has signed the insurrection act. By presidential proclamation, the flag over the White House is on 24 hours a day. If it was not flying, it would mean that something was terribly wrong."

There are no publicly available signal guides that say if the flag is not flying over the White House the military has taken over, there is selective martial law enacted or that the president has enacted the Insurrection Act.

The website U.S. History debunked a rumor that the flag is taken down when the president is not at the White House.

An urban legend states that it only flies at the White House when the President is in town. According to Lonnie Hovey, Director of Preservation of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, "Unlike other countries where the flag flying or not flying signifies the monarch or president is in the residence, the American flag is always flying on top of the White House whether or not the President and First Family are at home."

Richard Nixon signed a presidential proclamation in 1970 regarding the American flag flying over the White House around the clock:

On September 4, 1970, President Nixon -- on the advice of his wife -- issued a presidential proclamation mandating that the American flag that flies high over the White House is to fly 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- regardless of whether or not the President is home. Proclamation 4000 marked a departure from the past, one which has remained in place ever since."

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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