Whoa: Chilean President’s Major White House Protocol Breach

As far as symbols of the American presidency go, the Oval Office is a pretty big one.

The president’s desk? Definitely his alone.

That’s why it was certainly a surprise when the president of Chile walked over and sat himself down in President Barack Obama’s chair during a visit to the White House on Tuesday.

The president of Chile plopped himself down at President Barack Obama’s desk during a visit to the White House on Tuesday. (Image source: White House photo)

The whole thing was caught on camera during what seemed like a jokey, good-natured meeting — though Obama definitely appeared caught off-guard.

“I’m going to sit at the president of the United States’ desk,” Chilean President Sebastian Pinera first announced in Spanish. Then, just like that, he walked around and plunked himself down.

In an apparent effort to justify his action, Pinera said one of his daughters was born in the United States.

Someone in the room asked Obama how many other world leaders have ever sat at his desk. Obama replied, “He’s the only one.”

Dana Perino, a White House press secretary to former President George W. Bush, reacted to a question on Twitter about whether she had ever sat in her old boss’s chair. “No way, never!” she tweeted.

Perino said she didn’t even sit down at the desk at the new George W. Bush Presidential Center: “It still felt like that should be his and his alone,” she posted.