Amidst all the noise and activity on Saturday, Jan. 20, Twitter chatter was drawing attention to the president. In a thread, one user drew a comparison by sharing photos of Donald Trump's desk versus past presidents' desks. The side-by-side look of the current president and his predecessors came on the heels of photos of Trump working during the government shutdown sent out by the White House to the press earlier that day.
"Hey, all you People Who Know Desks: Does this look like the desk of somebody who works?" asked Honor Sachs, a historian and professor. She quoted a tweet of the widely circulated photo of Trump sitting at an empty desk in the Oval Office, apparently one of several photos sent out by the White House on Saturday with the subject line "Photos of President Donald J. Trump working in the White House during the Democrat shutdown."
The viral photo shows the president sitting at the Resolute desk with the phone up to his ear. The room appears fairly bare, a detail that became the topic of much virtual conversation. Unlike the standard suit-and-tie formalities you might expect, he's wearing a white baseball cap that reads "Make America Great Again."
While users tore into various aspects of the White House's PR email and the photos therein, Sachs' comparison added a new dimension to the debate. Writing "The desk thing is still bugging me," Sachs threw some photos out for users to examine.
She went on to post photos of past presidents sitting at their desks.
The thread of photos shows presidents in their offices going back decades, none of their desks empty.
Some users pointed out that a paper-free desk doesn't necessarily mean work's not getting done. As a modern-day president, it's possible Trump isn't a fan of paper documents and does the majority of his work by computer. But even that suggestion drew some virtual sideways glances.
"Even if he didn’t like working in hardcopy, you'd think there would at least be a laptop and some Post-its," wrote one user. "Ok so no paper = no work is not true because computers. So what does no computer mean?" wrote another.
Obviously, it's not the only photo of Trump at his desk, and there are probably similar photos one could dredge up of past presidents taken at a moment when they happened to have a fairly clean worktop. But users seemed to fixate on the fact that this was assumedly a staged photo.
Users pointed fingers at the publicity team responsible for the photos for the empty space. "Strikes me as a failure on the part of his PR team as much as the President himself," wrote one user.
Entrepreneur William LeGate poked fun at the president over the emptiness of his work station. "Lots of people are criticizing Trump for this staged photograph during the shutdown, noting that there are literally no documents on his desk… but that's not true!" he shared in a tweet. "They're just invisible, like his wall!"
Sachs wasn't the only user to point out the difference between this and former presidents.
Users also drew a comparison between Trump and his predecessors over family photos.
"Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, Reagan, etc — all have family photos on the credenza behind the desk," wrote Jennifer de Guzman. "Trump? What even are these?"
Lots of people, in fact, focused on the lack of photos or memorabilia in his workspace. "The absence of photos on the credenza behind the desk is even more disturbing. No emotional connections, like a decorator staged a set," wrote one user.
Users didn't stop there. Others compared Trump's desk to those of other famous people.
To throw another log on the comparison fire, one user replied by sharing a tweet from the Department of Energy press account with a photo of former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, buried behind a mountain of paperwork.
The Twitter chatter even drew a comparison to a similar photo shared by former British Prime Minister David Cameron and the jokes users made about it then. (Check out these hilarious replies by Rob Delaney and Patrick Stewart.)
And just to be thorough in their comparisons, users also shared photos of Trump's office at Trump Tower, seeming to refute the suggestion that perhaps Trump is just a tidy worker who likes a clean desk.
The desk issue drew particular criticism on this particular weekend. While the White House press team was busy sending out photos of Trump, people around the world were busy marching, in part to protest him, his administration and policy.