It is claimed that President Obama ordered flags to be flown at half mast upon singer Whitney Houston's death, but not for the fallen sniper Chris Kyle. Today we'll take a look at this comparison.
It’s partially true.
Note that in 2014, a similar comparison has been made between Whitney Houston and Shirley Temple Black.
Let’s first take a look at the graphic and the claims made in it:
American hero and former legendary Navy SEAL sniper. Known as the “Devil of Ramadi” with over 150 confirmed kills; the most in American military history, saving countless military and civilian lives.
Murdered in cold blood.
Obama does not even mention his name in the media.
American zero who drowned in her bath water after inducing a fatal concoction of drugs and alcohol.
Obama orders all flags be flown at half mast.
Now let’s take a look at each of these figures and what is being claimed.
Flags were in fact flown at half mast over the state New Jersey in February 2012 in the honor of Whitney Houston. The claim that President Obama ordered flags to fly at half mast, however, is incorrect. This was done by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie defended his decision at a press conference in which he said, “She was a cultural icon in this state and her accomplishments in her life were a source of great pride for many people in this state and for this state as a whole. On that basis, I think she’s entitled to have that recognition made for her.”
President Obama didn’t directly issue a statement on Houston, but press secretary Jay Carney fielded a question on the President’s behalf. He stated: “I know that … well, I haven’t spoken with him about it, but… I know that his thoughts and prayers are with her family, especially her daughter. I mean, it’s a tragedy to lose somebody so talented at such a young age.”
This portion of the graphic appears to have been inspired by a Facebook note posted by Sarah Palin in which she mentioned that flags were not flying at half staff at Kyle’s memorial, and expressed hope that “our commander in chief pays his respects in some gesture of condolence for their comrade in arms who sacrificed so much to keep him and all of us safe.” Flags in fact were not flown for Chris Kyle upon his death, but this would have been more likely done at the discretion of Texas Governor Rick Perry. While the President does have the ability to proclaim flags be flown at half mast for notable deaths, it is a very rare event (see below).
President Obama did not issue a statement in regards to the death of Chris Kyle. Governor Rick Perry did release a statement, found here.
The comparison above is misleading regarding flags being flown at half-satff. President Obama did not order flags to be flown for either person. On a state level, the New Jersey Governor ordered flags to be flown at half-staff for Whitney Houston while the Texas Governor did not order them to be flown at half-staff for Chris Kyle. In terms of the President’s statements about each figure, Obama did not directly mention either one, although his press secretary fielded a question about Houston and issued a statement on the President’s behalf.
Recap of Flags
- Flags flown by Obama for Houston: False (they were flown only in New Jersey)
- Obama did not issue statement on Kyle: True
Rules for Flying Flags at Half Mast
Title 4 of the U.S. Code accounts for when a flag should be flown at half mast. These include:
- For thirty days after the death of a current or former president or president-elect.
- For ten days after the death of a current vice president, current or retired chief justice, or current speaker of the House of Representatives.
- From the day of death until interment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a secretary of an executive or military department, a former vice president, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, or the governor of a state, territory, or possession.
- On the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress.
- On Memorial Day until noon.
- Upon presidential proclamation. Recent examples of this include the 9/11 attacks, the death of Pope John Paul II, and deaths of notable figures such as Neil Armstrong, Coretta Scott King, or Rosa Parks.
There was no presidential proclamation for flags to be flown for Whitney Houston or Chris Kyle.
What do you think of this graphic? Is this comparison fair or unfair?