Object of the Week

Why Everyone Is Still So Fascinated With Trump’s Diet Coke Button

Explaining our obsession with the most banal gadget left in the Oval Office

Rob Walker
Published in
4 min readJan 28, 2021


An image of the call button for the President in the Oval Office with the title text “Object of the Week”
Photo illustration, source: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis/Getty Images

Object of the Week is a new column exploring the objects a culture obsesses over and what that reveals about us.

A presidential transition requires a heady array of delicate and complex challenges and coordination, ensuring that the mighty apparatus that is the United States government moves forward as smoothly as possible. And this year, it has also brought a surprising amount of attention to a “Diet Coke button.”

The red button, built into a stained-wood box with a gold seal, about the size of a Kleenex package and often situated next to the phones on the Resolute Desk, was reportedly used by Donald Trump during his presidency to prompt a flunky to bring him a Diet Coke. Trivial as that may sound, this attracted particular attention when it appeared that Joe Biden, settling into the Oval Office, had gotten rid of the thing. Suddenly outsized significance was foisted onto an inanimate doohickey.

This reading of the object as childish, gauche, and embarrassing surely informed the interest in its apparent…