Current Events

The Shirley Temple and Whitney Houston Obama Comparison

The Shirley Temple and Whitney Houston Obama Comparison

Did President Obama order flags flown at half-staff upon the death of Whitney Houston, but not when Shirley Temple Black passed away?

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Flags were flown in the state of New Jersey for Whitney Houston upon her death in 2012, but that was the decision of Governor Chris Christie, not President Obama. It is true, however, that the President did not comment on Ms. Temple’s passing. Let’s look at the claims a little further.


The graphic above claims that “Whitney Houston democrat ODs on cocaine, Obama orders flags lowered.” It further alleges “Shirley Temple Black Republican US Ambassador died on 2/10/2014, Obama ignores her.”

Whitney Houston

Flags were in fact flown at half-staff 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-staff, 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.”

Note that a similar comparison to Houston occurred in 2013 when Navy SEAL Chris Kyle passed away.

Shirley Temple Black

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The child film star who later served three Republican administrations passed away in February 2014. President Obama did not order flags to be flown at half-staff, and press reports pointed out that he failed to mention Ms. Temple’s death, while at the same time issuing a statement about the retirement of a civil rights activist.

Rules for Flying Flags at Half-Staff
Title 4 of the U.S. Code accounts for when a flag should be flown at half-staff. 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.

Bottom Line

The claim that President Obama ordered flags flown at half-staff for Whitney Houston is false. That was ordered by Governor Chris Christie. The allegation that the President did not comment on the passing of Shirley Temple Black is true.

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1 Comment

  1. Paul Fournier

    February 14, 2014 at 11:49 am

    It is not ‘Half Mast’, as that refers to a flag pole on a ship. The PROPER terminology is ‘Half Staff’…

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