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• A false claim about the White House calling Christmas trees “holiday trees” first appeared during Barack Obama’s presidency and was based on a fabricated chain email
• We found no evidence that the Biden administration is calling Christmas trees by any other name.
A years-old, debunked claim about Christmas is decking the halls once again.
"The White House referred to Christmas trees as Holiday Trees for the first time this year," according to a viral Facebook post.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The claim first surfaced in fall 2009, when a chain email claimed that the Obamas would refer to Christmas trees as holiday trees. The email said an artist who paints ornaments for the annual White House Christmas tree had been notified via letter from the White House of the change in terminology. At the time, a White House spokeswoman said the claim was false and the letter did not exist. PolitiFact rated it Pants on Fire.
We did not find any evidence on official White House social media accounts or in published reports to indicate that the Biden administration is calling Christmas trees by any other name. Recently, news stories have referenced the 2021 White House Christmas tree being chosen from a North Carolina farm.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite having been debunked, the claim was resurrected in 2016 by Eric Trump, son of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, who said in an interview that part of his father’s motivation for seeking the presidency was his belief that the White House Christmas tree was referred to as a Holiday Tree.
The Facebook claim also says that the White House’s supposed change in how it refers to Christmas trees "prompted CBS presenter, Ben Stein, to present this piece which I would like to share with you." What follows is a long passage about how Stein doesn’t like "getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians."
But Stein’s speech can be traced back to a 2005 appearance on "CBS Sunday Morning News," so his words were not in reference to the 2009 false claim about Christmas trees being renamed. Snopes reported that some of the speech attributed to Stein was actually by Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham.
A Facebook post said, "The White House referred to Christmas trees as Holiday Trees for the first time this year."
This claim was debunked in 2009 and is still untrue today. We did not find any evidence to indicate that the Biden administration is calling Christmas trees by any other name.
A second part of the claim says Ben Stein responded to the change in Christmas terminology with a speech. But his speech was delivered in 2005, years before the false claim about Christmas trees emerged.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire!
Blue Ridge Public Radio, "2021 White House Christmas tree chosen from NC family farm," Oct. 21, 2021
Business Insider, "Trump suggests Joe Biden will try to take the word Christmas 'out of the vocabulary,’" Dec. 7, 2020
Facebook post, Oct. 17, 2021
PolitiFact, "Chain e-mail claims the Obamas plan to change a holiday tradition," Oct. 14, 2009
Snopes, "Confessions for the Holidays," Feb. 26, 2006
Wired, "How I Became an Unwilling Conscript in the War on Christmas," Dec. 17, 2014
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