VERIFY: Biden swore-in political appointees in a virtual ceremony in the Oval Office

The BBC falsely claimed that President Joe Biden conducted a virtual swearing-in of new political appointees in the Oval Office. In fact, the ceremony occurred in the State Dining Room of the White House.

Background: On 20 January 2021, Joe Biden was inaugurated President of the United States. Following the inauguration, he administered oaths of office to new political appointees via videoconference.

Claim: In an online photo gallery published January 21, the BBC captioned a Reuters-sourced photo:

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President Biden swore in presidential appointees during a virtual ceremony in the Oval Office

The photo showed President Joe Biden addressing a number of individuals, via videoconference, from a lectern. It’s unclear what caption Reuters originally distributed with the image.

Investigation: While the BBC reports the virtual swearing-in of political appointees occurred in the Oval Office, the Washington Post and TIME Magazine both give the location as the State Dining Room. So, too, does USA Today. A close examination of the drapery treatments and wainscoting of both rooms indicates that the latter location —  the State Dining Room —  is the actual location of the photo, not the Oval Office. (It also bears noting that the room in the image captioned by the BBC as being the Oval Office isn’t —  you know —  oval.)

Rating: In the world of the BBC, the White House consists of a single, large room called the Oval Office. Any indoor photo of the White House, therefore, must have been taken in the Oval Office. In the real world, the White House consists of 132 rooms. (Previously we noted that “the BBC can sometimes report on general themes with an okay level of reliability but has trouble mastering the details of news events such as when they occurred, who was there, or what happened.”)

The possibility this miscaptioning was a transcription error is questionable when one observes that no other media outlet seems to have made the same error. Is it possible the BBC intentionally miscaptioned the image to make it more comprehensible to its international, non-American audience? The Oval Office is, after all, one of the most famous and recognizable rooms in the world and sometimes serves as a synonym for the American presidency. In a fact-check of a similar situation, we discovered that Irish radio station NewsTalk altered the location of multiple photographs taken in Los Angeles and Seattle to geolocate them to a news center — Minneapolis — that would offer greater relevance to the accompanying story.

Whatever the case, the claim that Joe Biden conducted a virtual swearing-in of new political appointees in the Oval Office on January 6 is FALSE. The event occurred in the State Dining Room of the White House.

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