Is the claim that President Joe Biden has spent 40 percent of his presidency "on vacation" a straightforward statement? No, that's not true: It's missing context. The count includes days the president makes public appearances and days he spends at home in Delaware and at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland -- time the White House insists he is still working. Also, Biden's formal speeches make clear he's working for at least part of some days he's marked "on vacation."
The claim appeared in an Instagram post (archived here) published March 4, 2023. The post included a short clip of Biden boarding a helicopter and a caption that opened:
Another weekend vacation in Delaware for Joe Biden.
Biden has spent 306 days -- 40% of his presidency -- on vacation.
This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Thu Mar 9 17:00:50 2023 UTC)
The post echoes a count reported by the Republican National Committee (RNC) on March 3, 2023:
Another weekend vacation in Delaware for Joe Biden.-- RNC Research (@RNCResearch) March 4, 2023
Biden has spent 306 days -- 40% of his presidency -- on vacation. pic.twitter.com/ppgttq5Qfw
Earlier this year, the committee posted a tweet designating the days Biden was considered on vacation. That tweet can be seen below:
Since taking office, Joe Biden has spent 301 days -- 40% of his presidency -- on vacation. pic.twitter.com/mVu6NKZBLE-- RNC Research (@RNCResearch) February 11, 2023
For example, the RNC marked Biden absent February 3-6, 2023. But, according to the president's public speeches and remarks, he worked for at least part of some of those days.
On February 3, 2023, Biden delivered speeches in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One was on his administration's efforts to replace lead pipes; the other were remarks at a Democratic National Committee event.
On February 4, 2023, he spoke to reporters at a regional airport, while on February 6, 2023, Biden again answered questions, this time on the White House South Lawn.
The president also was marked on vacation January 13 and January 15-16, 2023, according to the RNC tweet.
But, on the former date, he spoke alongside the prime minister of Japan before a bilateral meeting, and, on the latter two dates, Biden delivered speeches honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lead Stories reached out to the RNC to ask about the post's claim and, specifically, about its methodology for calculating the president's vacation time. We will update this story, as appropriate, if we receive a response. From prior statements, it's clear the RNC includes time that Biden spends in Delaware and at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland in its count.
We also reached out to the White House to ask about the post's claim. Spokesman Andrew Bates directed us to comments he'd made to the New York Post, which reported he said:
Regardless of location, he [Biden] has taken fewer vacation days than the modern norm.
Being somewhere other than the White House is not the same thing as being on vacation.
Bates's comments were consistent with previous White House statements. In November 2021, then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, in response to a question about Biden taking time off around Thanksgiving, said:
I will also tell you, from spending some time working for this President and a past President, that: You are President no matter where you are. He will conduct his work from wherever he is, on any vacation, on any time he is in Delaware, at Camp David, or wherever he may be spending time with his loved ones.
To be sure, criticizing the president's vacation time is nothing new. Former President Donald Trump was a frequent target of such attacks, as was former President Barack Obama.
Mark Knoller, a former CBS News White House correspondent, tracks presidents' trips away from Washington. He has compared Biden with some of his predecessors and found Biden's count to be markedly higher.
In a February 2023 tweet, Knoller wrote:
By my count, this is Biden's 65th trip to DE, spanning all or part of 206 days. Compares at same point to:-- Mark Knoller (@markknoller) February 25, 2023
Trump: 35 trips/156 days (MAL/Bedminster)
GWBush: 20 trips/145 days (Texas ranch)
Much like the White House, however, Knoller has stressed that no president can "truly go on vacation."
In August 2016, he wrote:
They may visit a vacation venue, but the job is with them 24/7.