President Barack Obama’s decision to spend Memorial Day 2010 outside of Washington D.C. and not take part in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was rapidly used as a smear against him by right-wing blogs and social media users.
As the Associated Press reported at the time, graphics spread on Facebook claiming that Obama “skipped” the holiday in order to attend a “BBQ” in Chicago.
The AP’s report on Obama’s activities that weekend illustrates the overblown nature of the critiques:
Obama spent the early afternoon of Memorial Day in 2010 honoring fallen soldiers at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, about 50 miles southwest of Chicago. Members of the armed forces, as well as their spouses and children, are eligible to be buried at the cemetery.
While there, Obama placed a wreath at a tomb in the cemetery. As Obama prepared to give a speech, a storm blew in and he instructed the crowd to take cover. During the storm he boarded buses carrying military families and greeted them. The speech was eventually canceled because of the weather.
Obama then visited with veterans and service members at a Veterans Affairs treatment center in Hines, Illinois. Later that day, Obama returned to the nation’s capital, where he delivered a speech to dozens of troops at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer bluntly noted in a commentary piece for the network that presidents before Obama had also marked the occasion away from Arlington:
The critics were either ignorant of the facts or they failed to mention the 2007 Veterans Day ceremony when Vice President Dick Cheney spoke while President George W. Bush observed the holiday in Texas.
Vice President Dan Quayle laid the wreath at Arlington on Memorial Day, 1992. I recall covering President George H.W. Bush, a distinguished World War II vet, as he marked the holiday that year at his favorite vacation spot, Kennebunkport, Maine, where he spoke to a veterans group.
Back in 1983, a Defense Department official laid the Memorial Day wreath at Arlington when Ronald Reagan was at a G-7 Summit meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia.
This is far from a complete list, but presidents have been at places other than Arlington on Memorial Day.
Update 5/28/2021, 2:15 pm: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here.