back to top

British Reporters Were Temporarily Barred From The White House Because America Does Dates Wrong

D/M/Y not M/D/Y.

Posted on

UK prime minister Theresa May is in Washington to meet US President Donald Trump and big up the so-called "special relationship" the two countries supposedly enjoy.

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The limits of this special relationship were exposed, however, by America's frankly eccentric insistence on putting the month first when formatting dates. If you think this is a reasonable thing to do, here's a map of all the countries that do it (in pink):

Yes, the US is one of only three countries, along with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, to do this.


BuzzFeed News' UK political editor Jim Waterson tweeted to say that he and his colleagues had been prevented from entering the White House because their birthdays, entered in a day/month/year format didn't make sense to the US Secret Service agents admitting them.

Jim Waterson / Twitter / Via Twitter: @jimwaterson

Waterson was only admitted because he was born on 23 March, but journalists whose birthdays fell on a date between 1 and 12 were delayed getting access for the joint press conference from Trump and May.

Those of us born after the 12th day of the month have been let through. This full military welcome is awaiting Ther…

People were howling.

Lily Allen / Twitter / Via Twitter: @lilyallen
Holly Anderson / Twitter / Via Twitter: @HollyAnderson
Doug Heye / Twitter / Via Twitter: @DougHeye
Catherynne Valente / Twitter / Via Twitter: @catvalente

But the White House was not impressed.

"Why is that funny? One person put their birthday as 01/08/[year], why would we be expected to think that means August 1st? Why?"

Some US journalists said it was payback.

David Luhnow / Twitter / Via Twitter: @davidluhnow
Donna Leinwand Leger / Twitter / Via Twitter: @DonnaLeinwand

At least May herself wasn't held up (we think), despite being born on 1 October.

Here she is. Unclear what format her date of birth is in.

Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo News and the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, explained in a series of tweets that it probably wasn't the fault of the Secret Service, but a breakdown in communication between British journalists and the US National Security Council press office.

Olivier Knox / Twitter / Via Twitter: @OKnox
Olivier Knox / Twitter / Via Twitter: @OKnox
Olivier Knox / Twitter / Via Twitter: @OKnox
Olivier Knox / Twitter / Via Twitter: @OKnox
Olivier Knox / Twitter / Via Twitter: @OKnox

So while it may have been a simple misunderstanding, the episode is proof that if there is one thing President Trump should do on the international stage it's to make America format dates properly. Then the world would be a much better place. Period.

Matthew Champion is a deputy world news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Matthew Champion at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.