Fact check: Patriotic graphics and American flag designs did feature at Democratic debates

Posts shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook claim that there were no American flags present at the Democratic candidate debates, suggesting the party is unpatriotic. This claim is partly false, as while there were no fabric flags at the debates, there were plenty of graphics containing either stars and stripes or other red, white and blue designs.

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks as Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Kamala Harris listen during the fifth 2020 campaign debate at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Examples of these claims can be found here , here  and here .  

The claim seems to have originated with a Facebook post from February 24, 2020 ( here ), five days after the ninth Democratic debate in Paradise, Nevada. By the time of this article’s publication, the post had received 774 comments and 70,000 shares. Each of the debates preceding this post prominently featured patriotic graphics on stage, either in their design, color scheme, or both.  

Images of the first round of debates, held in Miami, Florida from June 26 to June 27, 2019, can be found here . The stage graphics are red, white and blue, with the screens behind the candidates showing both red and white stripes as well as stars on both red and blue backgrounds.  

The second debates took place in Detroit, Michigan from July 30 to 31, 2019. Photos, available here , show a red, white, and blue background of both solid color blocks and stripes.  

The third debate, held in Houston, Texas on September 12, 2019, featured red and blue graphics with faded white stars behind the candidates as well as on the candidates’ podiums. Images of this debate can be viewed here .  

On October 15, 2019, 12 candidates took to the stage for the fourth debate in Westerville, Ohio. Images of the debate here, show a ring of stars overhead as well as red, white and blue rectangles behind the candidates.  

The fifth debate, which happened on November 20, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia, featured screens with red and white stripes above the candidates and a White House graphic before a blue background with horizontal red, white and blue stripes. Images can be found here .  

The sixth debate, which took place in Los Angeles, California on December 19, 2019, had less obviously patriotic graphics. The color scheme ( here ) was still red, white and blue, however.  

Graphics at the seventh debate, which happened on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa, were bright red, white and blue, consisting mostly of rectangles ( here ). 

The design at the eighth debate, held in Manchester, New Hampshire on February 7, was similar. Seen here , the podium graphics reflected the red and blue color block design on stage behind the candidates.  

The final debate to take place before this Facebook post was in Paradise, Nevada on February 19, 2020. The stage graphics, viewable here , were similar to those at the fifth debate in Atlanta, this time with more prominent stars and stripes.  

The Democratic debates that took place after this post began circulating featured similarly patriotic graphics. Images of the tenth debate, from February 25, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina, can be found here . Images of the eleventh debate, held in Washington, D.C. on March 15, are available here . Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as Senator Bernie Sanders’ decision to suspend his campaign, the eleventh debate was the last.  

Social media posts making this claim began to recirculate from mid- to late-August 2020, during both the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention. Examples of users sharing the claim during this time can be found here , here , and here .  

It is possible that some users confused the Democratic debates with the Democratic National Convention. Both fabric and digital American flags, however, featured prominently at the convention, seen here . 


Partly false. While there were no fabric flags at the Democratic debates, there were plenty of graphics featuring patriotic colors and designs.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here  .