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Fact check: White House was not vacant for ten days after inauguration; night-time darkness pre-dates Biden

Social media users have been sharing posts which claim that the White House has been empty for at least ten nights in a row since President Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, because the lights have been switched off at night. With links to the “10 days of darkness” theory connected to the baseless QAnon conspiracy, this claim is false: business has been carried out in the White House since Biden’s inauguration and the Bidens have moved into the residence. The White House lights have been routinely switched off at around 11 p.m. since prior to Biden’s presidency.

Fireworks are seen above the White House after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021.REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

“10th night in a row no body home…” says one post from 9:29 p.m. ET Jan. 30, which shows a picture of the front of the White House with no lights shining onto the building or coming out through the windows ( here ). The post has been shared more than 1,000 times on Twitter, including on later dates.  here   ,  here ). Another post shows an aerial view of the White House with its lights out, with the caption “White House Dark 10th night in a row…!” ( here ). Some posts include a screenshot of an anonymous user on a message board saying “Should the lights go out please know we are in control. Do not panic” ( here ) or the caption “And C u e – If it’s dark, don’t worry. We are in control.” here )

It appears that the reference to “10 days of darkness” is linked to the widely debunked QAnon conspiracy, which is based around the idea that former President Trump is secretly fighting a cabal of child-sex predators that includes prominent Democrats, Hollywood elites and “deep state” allies ( here ). QAnon supporters believe that Biden is not president, the military is in control and Trump will return to power to expose the supposed cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophile cannibal elites in a “great awakening” after “10 days of darkness”, a fictional time when it will appear that the government has shut down but the “new government” will in fact be taking over ( here   ,  here ). Reuters debunked some similar claims  here   - a U.S. government defense official told Reuters via email that neither martial law nor the Insurrection Act had been declared. 

The photo used in some posts, seen  here  , circulated on the night of May 31, 2020 ( here  ,  here  ,  here ) when the White House lights went off during Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd on May 25. The lights did go off, as reported by Forbes here   and the New York Times  here . But the photo is not real: as shown by fact checkers at the time, including Snopes ( here ), AP ( apnews.com/article/8983690810 ) and Factckeck.org ( here ), the picture is an edited version of a photo taken in July 2014, seen on the photo site Alamy here   .

Switching off the White House lights late at night is a regular occurrence that started before the start of the Biden administration. When the White House lights went off during Black Lives Matter protests during the Trump administration, White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley explained to Newsweek “This is nothing new. The White House lights go out at about 11 p.m. almost every night” ( here ). Reuters White House correspondent Steve Holland also confirmed that the White House lights regularly go off around 11 p.m., as did the CNN’s Chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, on Twitter ( here ).

The White House did not immediately respond to Reuters request for confirmation.

The White House lights have been on in the evenings since Biden’s inauguration, as seen in these photos from Getty Images on Feb. 2 here , Reuters on Feb. 1 here  , Shutterstock on Jan. 30 here   and Jan. 23 here , AP on Jan. 22 here  and Reuters on Jan. 20, the night of the inauguration  here  .

The social media posts claim that the White House has been empty for 10 days since Biden’s inauguration. This is false: Reuters photos of the following days prove that Biden, his family and administration have been using the White House since Biden’s inauguration. The Reuters photos can be seen  here (Jan. 20), here and here (Jan. 21), here (Jan. 22), here (Jan. 25), here (Jan. 26), here (Jan. 27), here (Jan. 28) and here (Jan. 29).

The Bidens and their dogs have moved into the White House, as reported on by the Washington Post here , CNN here   and here , Fox News here and the BBC here .

VERDICT

False. The Biden administration has been working and living in the White House since Biden’s inauguration. The White House lights routinely switch off at 11p.m. almost every night and this has been happening since before the Biden administration.

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

Update Feb 4: this article has been updated to include comment from Reuters White House correspondent confirming White House lights switch off around 11 p.m..

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