The Bidens, in a rare gesture, immediately greeted the White House residence staff upon entering the building on Inauguration Day, staffer says

Bidens White House Inauguration
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden wave as they arrive at the North Portico of the White House on January 20, 2021.

  • The Bidens immediately greeted the White House staff upon entering the building on Inauguration Day.
  • “Usually we meet them in the first days or first weeks, but never in the first minutes,” a staffer said.
  • Biden has publicly expressed some reservations about being waited on by residence staff.
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Whenever the presidency changes hands, the White House residence staff undertakes a herculean task on Inauguration Day – transforming the private quarters of the historic building for its newest occupants within the span of a few hours.

For “lifers,” the staff members who have served multiple US Presidents, the traditions and protocols inside the White House have been an enduring facet of their lives for decades.

However, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden upended a traditional interaction with the residence staff on their first day in the White House, according to The New Yorker.

After entering the North Portico of the building, the residence staff was assembled on the grand State Floor to welcome the Bidens.

“The Bidens came in and the first thing they did was make a loop of the State Floor and greet the staff,” a residence staffer said.

The gesture elicited tears from the staffer, who is unnamed due to their current employment at the White House.

“We were all very flattered,” the residence staffer added. “Usually we meet them in the first days or first weeks, but never in the first minutes.”

The Bidens reportedly approached each staffer member and greeted them with well wishes.

In response to a comment, President Biden reportedly expressed to one of the staffers that he and his wife were “glad we’re here, too.”

Due to social distancing measures, employees were spread out throughout the floor.

The residence staffer remarked at the difference between how Biden approached the COVID-19 pandemic and that of Trump, where staffers were all assembled in one room before the former president’s departure.

“It’s like night and day,” the staffer said.

During a town hall in Milwaukee earlier this month, Biden described feeling uncomfortable with being waited on by the White House staff, including a worker who “hands me my suit coat.”

“I was raised in a way that you didn’t look for anybody to wait on you,” he said. “It’s where I find myself extremely self-conscious. There are wonderful people who work at the White House.”

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The Bidens were reportedly left waiting outside the White House on Inauguration Day because Trump sent the staff home

bidens white house
Joe and Jill Biden outside the White House.

Joe and Jill Biden may have been waiting to enter the White House for longer than necessary on Inauguration Day because there was a lack of staff there to greet them.

In a break from White House protocol, the new President and First Lady were left standing in front of closed doors as they took photos outside of their new residence for the first time on Wednesday. 

Read more: Biden enters White House for first time since being sworn in as 46th US president

The Trumps “sent the butlers home when they left so there would be no-one to help the Bidens when they arrived,” a well-placed official not associated with the Biden administration told The National Journal.

Chief usher Timothy Harleth was also fired by the Trumps before they left on Wednesday morning, the publication reports. White House press secretary Jen Psak later confirmed that Harleth’s exit occurred “before we walked in the door.”

A video of the Bidens’ arrival shows them standing in front of the White House doors for a photo-op, which lasted more than one minute before they walked toward the residence. 


The doors then opened for the couple, although it is not clear from the video whether they were opened from the inside or outside.

A veteran White House social expert told The National Journal that it is a “big protocol breach for the president to ever stand in front of a closed-door at the White House.”

“That may be why there was nobody to open the doors to the Bidens. You couldn’t expect the Biden staff to know to do that. Doors are opened and closed by ushers. There are rules about all these things and everyone has their job,” they added. 

Read more: Over 1 million more people watched Biden’s inauguration than Trump’s

However, one former White House official told the publication that the couple’s team might have specifically requested the doors closed for the photo-op.

“But what should have happened is that a Biden staff member should have alerted the usher or staff person on the other side of that door that it was time to open it. That was a staff mistake,” they said.

Biden’s entrance was a complete contrast to Trump’s first visit to the White House on his Inauguration day four years prior. 

On January 20, 2017, Donald and Melanie Trump were greeted by former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, who posed for the photos with the couple before they entered the building together through open doors. 

Trump broke tradition by opting not to attend Biden’s Inauguration ceremony last week. Instead, the former president made a brief farewell address at Joint Base Andrews before flying to South Florida with his wife.

Representatives for President Biden did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

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