HOUSTON - Hanging presidential portraits in government buildings and changing them over from one administration to the next is a time-honored tradition. It began after the Civil War.
A KHOU 11 viewer via email wanted us to verify: “Do government agencies have to display a picture of the ‘current’ president on their walls?”
We turned to the U.S. General Services Administration, the GSA, to verify our viewer’s question. The simple answer is no, according to the Office of Strategic Communication for GSA, which is an independent agency of the U.S. government that helps manage federal agencies.
It’s response: “There is no regulation that specifies that federal agencies must display portraits of the sitting President and Vice President in the space they occupy. However, GSA displays portraits of the President and Vice President in the public areas of the buildings that GSA owns and operates, including locations leased by GSA, where the building is fully occupied by the federal government.”
The words “fully occupied” are an important distinction.
Our viewer said a few months ago, he noticed in the IRS office, located in a building in Greenspoint, a portrait of former president Barack Obama was still hanging, instead of the portrait of the sitting president, Donald Trump.
KHOU can confirm currently President Trump’s portrait is hanging in that office.
It’s important to note this building is not fully occupied by the federal government and is shared with private companies.
In general, why might there be a delay in hanging a presidential portrait? It depends on when the U.S. Government Publishing Office, the G.P.O., receives the portraits from the White House and is able to produce and distribute them. They get distributed to more than 1,600 federal buildings and military facilities.
They’re also available for private sale. The White House did not release President Trump’s portrait until the end of October 2017. That’s nearly 10 months after he took office, which is much longer his predecessors.
There’s also another side note: The GSA says in the buildings it does operate, the portraits of the previous administration – President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden -- were taken down Jan. 20, 2017, the same day the current administration took over.
General Services Administration