Posts Claim This Is Biden's 1st Photo in Oval Office as President. Here's What We Know

Jim Watson/ AFP via Getty Images
Jim Watson/ AFP via Getty Images

On May 13, 2024, a Reddit user posted a photograph in the subreddit r/pics, claiming it was the first photo taken of U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office after his inauguration. Comments under the post seemed more focused on the face mask he was wearing than the claim, with one commenter responding, "Kids will never understand the extreme Ninja trend of the early 20's. What a time to be alive." A photo taken at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 would warrant such a response. 

The image has circulated on social media since it was first published by the New York Post with an article titled, "A first peek inside President Joe Biden's Oval Office" on Jan. 20, 2021. It was captioned as "A masked President Biden poses for photos" and was credited to Jim Watson of Agence France-Presse.

On the same day, an X user posted the photo with the caption "Our first look at President Biden in the Oval Office," paired with the hashtag "#Inauguration2021." A Facebook post from CDN Digital featured the same photo with the caption, "LOOK: US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in as the 46th president at the US Capitol on Wednesday, January 20, 2021."

The evidence we have found indicates this photo was among the first taken of Biden in the Oval Office as president, though several others were taken during the same session, so we can't confirm with certainty that it was the first. We've reached out to the photographer to learn more, and will update this article if we receive a reply.

Outside of social media, the image circulated on many news sites, and was even published in a Snopes article — "Did President Biden Remove Military Flags From the Oval Office?" That article was published Jan. 22, 2021.

For context, you can see Biden speaking to the press in the Oval Office in a video from Time magazine that accompanied an article titled, "Inside Joe Biden's Agenda for His First 100 Days." In that video, a pop-up label shows the date as Jan. 20, 2021. Biden addressed the media as he sat behind his desk. The angle of the video is different from that of the image in question, but the elements are the same. 

One detail in particular, the small piece of paper in front of Biden, makes it clear the Time video and the photo in question were taken around the same time. In the video, Biden states, "This is going to be the first of many engagements we're going to have in here," referencing the Oval Office.

A search for the image in the Getty Images archive returned an exact match. The photo is captioned, "US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021" It's credited to Watson and was uploaded on Jan. 20, 2021. 

Four other photos from Watson appear in the Getty archive matching moments that were captured in the Time magazine video, in which Biden is seen signing executive orders. Although it's very likely these were the first photos taken of Biden in the Oval Office after his inauguration, we found no corroborating evidence to confirm that this was the "first," nor even the first of the four taken by Watson. 

An X post further muddies the waters, by claiming that a different photo, which appears to have been taken on a cellphone, was the first taken of Biden in the Oval Office after his inauguration. That photo also shows Biden addressing the media, which is the subject of the Time video.

Considering there is no irrefutable evidence, a truth rating can not be assigned to the claim at this time. We will update this article if any new substantial evidence rises to the surface.

Sources:

Abramson, Alana, and Brian Bennett. "Inside Joe Biden's Agenda for His First 100 Days." TIME, 21 Jan. 2021, https://time.com/5931852/joe-biden-100-days/.

Archive, View Author, et al. A First Peek inside President Biden's Oval Office. 21 Jan. 2021, https://nypost.com/2021/01/20/a-first-peek-inside-president-bidens-oval-office/.

Evon, Dan. "Did President Biden Remove Military Flags From the Oval Office?" Snopes, 22 Jan. 2021, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/president-biden-flags-removed-oval/.