White House Comment Line Shut Down, Tells Callers to Use Non-Existent Facebook Messenger Account Instead

White House Shutterstock
AM Stock-Cameo

The White House has shut down its public comment line some time in the past few weeks, instead telling callers, with an automated message, that they should contact the administration via Facebook Messenger instead. There’s only one problem: Neither the new White House administration nor President Donald Trump seem to currently maintain an active Facebook Messenger account.

The White House had long kept a public comment line, which in recent years had been staffed by volunteers of the Obama administration. In addition, it also offered a number to reach the White House switchboard, where paid staffers would pick up the phone and take messages for the administration.

It’s unclear when exactly the comment line was turned off; Twitter users first reported Monday that both the switchboard and the comment line had been disabled, but news reports suggest that at least the comment line may have been turned off earlier this month as the Obama administration wound down operations.

Callers are instead asked to use a form on the White House website, or contact the administration via Facebook Messenger. The switchboard was subsequently turned on again, but the comment line remains unavailable.

The message doesn’t clarify whether callers should use the official White House Facebook page or President Trump’s Facebook page to do so — but then again, that distinction doesn’t really matter: Neither of the two pages currently offers any messaging capabilities. Trying to find the White House or the President directly from within Facebook’s Messenger app also proved unsuccessful.

Facebook has long offered businesses and other operators of Facebook pages the ability to directly communicate with their consumers via Messenger, including via messages sent directly from the Facebook website. The company added the ability to use bots that can engage in simple conversations via Messenger last April. It doesn’t seem like the White House is currently using any of those technologies.

To add insult to injury, there are currently a number of third-party Facebook accounts that operate under user names wrongfully suggesting an affiliation with the White House. Some of these accounts, including Facebook.com/POTUSDonaldTrump, do use Messenger. However, anyone messaging that particular account actually sends messages to the operator of dormant pro-Trump blog Pundit Today.

Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment. Variety wasn’t able to reach the White House for comment.

Correction: 1/24: An initial version of this story suggested that reports about the shut-down of the comment line first surfaced on Monday. Variety has since been made aware of reports that suggest the line may have been inoperable since earlier in January. The article was changed throughout to account for this.

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  10. Lincoln Cory says:

    Russians kill people in Urkrane, eye injury also. Family needs help.

  11. Dolly Dimple Schumann/Kester says:

    I was given a phone number to call this morning, but it was a wrong number.

  12. J Taylor says:

    Many are calling Drumpf’s businesses to lodge their comments. Since prez hasn’t divested himself from the businesses, they could be considered an extension of the WH.

  13. Maria Cantarero says:

    I’m quite sure that I used that hotline to thank Obama for awarding the medal of honor to Biden, and that was on the 12th. I find it real hard to believe that Obama closed it down. It was, at various times over the last year, overwhelmed by comments, so it was necessary to call back, but not closed down. I don’t remember ever being treated rudely, and when I called, it was usually because I was hot under the collar. I feel bad that a reader here believes that no president ever gave a damn about citizen input. I think the reason Obama finally stalled the DAPL pipeline was because of massive input from tribal people and supporters all over the US. And for the record, after this election, 46.1% of the popular vote does not mean that “the people have spoken.” Trump may want to claim not, but we don’t have to buy into it.

  14. steve peterson says:

    I called the White House Comment Line for decades under many administrations. Don’t know why I did? Perhaps just to vent? The whole thing is a farce: no president gives a damn what I or anyone else thinks and when i voiced a politically incorrect opinion, I was even treated rudely. As if this comment line will make even a dent in the Global Agenda …… It’s like voting – it creates the lie and illusion that people matter or as they say after every election, “the people have spoken.” WHAT A CRUEL JOKE!!

  15. Heartbroken high school teacher says:

    I called the comment line just a couple of weeks ago to wish President Obama and his family well, and to thank them for their service. I got a LIVE LADY on the phone, who thanked me for the call, and we were on the phone for over ten minutes discussing how she and I would miss our wonderful President.

    I’ve been calling that line for years, and almost always got a live human being. When they were busy, at least there was a message box for leaving feedback. I used to give my students that phone number, and they were tickled pink to call the White House and have somebody answer! I still have the number on speed dial.

    And now it’s gone. Donald Trump has no interest in what the American people have to say.

    Fortunately, America has never had patience for kings.

  16. Charlotte Sheasby-Coleman says:

    So shocking that the WH phone comment line is down now but just wanted to let you know that I was able to leave a message on January 14th when I asked President Obama to commute Chelsea Manning’s ridiculous prison sentence. Checked my records and thought you would want to know that it was still up and running then.

  17. GreatLakesGirl says:

    I have contacted the Department of Justice to ask them to have the phone comment line turned back on. It is my opinion this could be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). There are many Americans who have a qualified disability that does not allow them to use online communication options. (My mother would be one of these people, so she has no way to express her ideas or concerns to the White House without relying on someone else to do it for her.) A transition in Administrations shouldn’t affect the ability to at least receive and record voicemail messages from citizens to the White House. Unacceptable….

    • Maria Cantarero says:

      Good for you, Great Lakes Girl!

    • Diane says:

      They have a correction at the end of the article saying the line for comments was closed sometime in the early part of January. Trump wasn’t in office then so don’t blame him. It had to be Obama’s people took it offline for some reason.

      • Maria Cantarero says:

        Read the comments…it wasn’t down as of the 14th. Three of us used it…I used it on the 12th.

  18. patricia j paddock says:

    the White House’s website is still using its comment feature. At east for now.

    • Kate Ahern says:

      I called the switch board yesterday and it was answered.

      • Heartbroken high school teacher says:

        Kate, I called the switchboard too, after getting the ominous “shut down” recording from the comment line. The lady who answered the switchboard said that the comment line has been shut down “indefinitely.” Without wanting to get her in trouble, I’ll just say that she was about as disgusted with the situation as I am.

  19. NH Thinker says:

    The phone recording indicates the first option is to use whitehouse.gov /contact which is working fine.

  20. NH Thinker says:

    2009 article from VillageVoice[not exactly GOP publication]Basically this occurs on EVERY transition

  21. Mike says:

    This happened 2 weeks ago, before Trump took office. Talk about alt facts.

    Good “story” though Variety.

  22. bob says:

    Strange. All these years I thought Variety was a newspaper that concerned itself with the film and entertainment business.

  23. Trump Only wants praise he can’t deal with reality!

  24. Janey says:

    It is important to note that the Trump administration also removed the phone numbers, address and email addresses for the White House from the Contact the White House page.

  25. Steve Barr says:

    Welcome to 1984. Long live Big Brother!

  26. Dario O says:

    who cares? I’m sure Obama’s White House did nothing about the coments anyhow, as would Trump’s White House. Just a waste of time and money.

    • Ann Taylor says:

      Actually, there was a very nice story in the New York Times Magazine about how Obama handled mail; he personally read 10 letters a day, and everyone got a response. It will be interesting to see how Trump handles constituent letters and calls. I care because he is supposed to represent us, and he can’t represent us if he doesn’t know our opinion.

    • Robert J Morgalo says:

      I care. And I am sure there are many who don’t care and many more who care just as m7ch as me. For thise who don’t care, then doing nothing is fine. For those who do care foing something will make a difference. Sitting on the sidelined accomplishes nothing. If someone said to Rosa Parks, “who cares?” they eould have been wrong. If. Someone would have said, “who cares?” to Martin Luther King Jr. They would have bern wrong. If someone would have said, “who cares?” to all thise who marched for civil rights, they would have been wrong. If someone would have said, “who cares?” to all those who marched for a woman’s right to vote, they would have been wrong. No you say, “who cares?” to thst I say, I am in pretty good company and the success of all those who came before and paved the way for all of us that do care, is all the motivation I need to keep caring.

  27. Just another lie from Trump & co.

  28. Robert Illes says:

    It’s an way of codifying what we already know: they don’t give a damn what the American people think.

  29. Robert J Morgalo says:

    The President shut down the official comments phone line at the White House. Let’s everybody send him a letter through snail mail. Imagine 2 million letters arriving at the White House at the same time. Let’s send it out for Presidents Day!

    This will be a “postal march”. Imagine if everyone who marched last Saturday sent a letter. It’s as though we will be marching right into the White House.

    Share, Share, Share!

    Let him know how you really feel and what is important to you.
    Don’t Hate – Activate
    Don’t Hate – Motivate
    Don’t Hate – Propagate
    Don’t Hate – Congregate
    #operationsnailmail #presidentsfay2017

  30. RTF says:

    The phone line is currently being answered by a person, who says that the comment line was shut down while the transition during administration’s takes place.

  31. This article is disingenuous. There are now several ways to contact your Dear Leader.

    1. By making a generous contribution to the “Trump Family Human Fund”

    2. You may contact the Embassy of the Russian Federation. They will direct your praise to the appropriate department. (202) 298-5700

    3. If you live outside the United States please contact the Kremlin, Moscow. +7 495 697-03-49

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