President Barack Obama shows Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom a bust of Sir Winston Churchill in the private residence of the White House, July 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
[Editor’s note: see the updates below for the rest of the story…]
I used to respect Charles Krauthammer because even though he is partisan he wouldn’t twist objective facts. It appears that’s no longer true, as another right wing “news analyst” sells his soul to the wingnut fringe with this ridiculous outrage of the day.
Perhaps Charles is trying to distract from the overseas conflagration that is Mitt’s trip to demonstrate his foreign diplomacy skills. Or perhaps it’s just an honest mistake combined with the laziness of believing something is true because you really wish it to be true; a tendency that professional con men count on from the gullible. Regardless and irrespective of those speculations, a journalist with integrity would print a full retraction now that the facts are known. Will Charles Krauthammer do so?
Also note that for the record I’m well pleased that our President put President Lincoln back into a place of prominence; one where his bust fits better than that of a foreign leader.
Lately, there’s been a rumor swirling around about the current location of the bust of Winston Churchill. Some have claimed that President Obama removed the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and sent it back to the British Embassy.
Now, normally we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column. He said President Obama “started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.”
This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.
News outlets have debunked this claim time and again. First, back in 2010 the National Journal reported that “the Churchill bust was relocated to a prominent spot in the residence to make room for Abraham Lincoln, a figure from whom the first African-American occupant of the Oval Office might well draw inspiration in difficult times.” And just in case anyone forgot, just last year the AP reported that President Obama “replaced the Oval Office fixture with a bust of one of his American heroes, President Abraham Lincoln, and moved the Churchill bust to the White House residence.”
In case these news reports are not enough for Mr. Krauthammer and others, here’s a picture of the President showing off the Churchill bust to Prime Minister Cameron when he visited the White House residence in 2010.
UPDATE at 7/27/12 1:04:23 pm
Speaking in Britain, Mitt Romney also got this totally wrong — and unfortunately, ABC News repeated the falsehood without catching it: Romney ‘Looking Forward’ to Returning Churchill Bust to White House.
LONDON – Mitt Romney, speaking to a group of more than 200 supporters in hotel in the heart of London this evening, said he is “looking forward” to returning the bust of Winston Churchill to the White House after it was sent back to Great Britain by President Obama.
The GOP candidate, who suffered a brutal day of press after he suggested that he wasn’t sure the London Olympics would go off without a hitch, spoke highly of the British monuments — singling out the Churchill statue — that he said he got a firsthand look at while stuck in traffic — likely caused by the Olympic Games.
“You live here, you see the sites day in and day out, but for me as I drive past the sculpture of Winston Churchill and see that great sculpture next to Westminster Abbey and Parliament and with him larger than life, enormous heft of that sculpture suggesting the scale of the the grandeur and the greatness of the man, it tugs at the heart strings to remember the kind fo example that was led by Winston Churchill,” said Romney, speaking in a ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on the edge of Hyde Park.
“And I’m looking forward to the bust of Winston Churchill being in the Oval Office again,” Romney said, evoking applause from the group that helped the candidate raise more than $2 million for his campaign.
Romney’s remarks about the Churchill bust came the day after an article in a British newspaper blindly quoted advisors — who Romney said he did not know — who asserted that the candidate really wants the statue back in Washington D.C.
President Obama returned the bust in 2009, drawing ire from the British press who said that the move had made some leaders “nervous” about what the gesture meant for U.S.-U.K. relations. The bust had a home in the Oval Office during President George W. Bush’s administration.
The desire to have Churchill’s bust returned to the White House was a sentiment expressed by one of two Romney advisors who spoke anonymously to the British newspaper the Telegraph. The story has since ignited a firestorm of criticism of the candidate, who had vowed that his campaign would not speak ill of the Obama administration while on foreign soil.
Romney, who has distanced himself from the unnamed advisors who also suggested in the story that the White House doesn’t appreciate the “Anglo-Saxon” relationship between the U.K and the United States, saying he does not know who these advisers are, appeared to echo their assertion that he’d like the Churchill statue to return Washington.
The advisers told the Telegraph that Romney would “seek to reinstate the Churchill bust” and one told the paper that Romney “viewed the move as ‘symbolically important.’”
And note that Romney is echoing a point made by those unnamed advisers who caused a stir this week.
UPDATE at 7/27/12 1:29:49 pm
Here’s Fox News’s Monica Crowley repeating the talking point again:
UPDATE at 7/27/12 2:12:21 pm
Jake Tapper gets to the bottom of it: Is the Churchill Bust Controversy a Total Bust?
White House curator William Allman was quoted in a January 2010 story at cbsnews.com seeming to confirm the (incorrect) information. “Some Britons took offense when Winston Churchill’s bust was replaced with King’s,” the story reads. “But the decision to return the Churchill bust to the British – it had been presented by former Prime Minister Tony Blair to Bush on loan – had been made before Obama even arrived. ‘It was already scheduled to go back,’ Allman said.” So what gives?
Like a plot twist in a sitcom, IT TURNS OUT THERE ARE TWO CHURCHILL BUSTS!!!
The one in the White House Residence was a gift to the White House from the British Embassy during the Nixon administration.
The other one was loaned to President George W. Bush by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Says James Barbour, Press Secretary and Head of Communications for the British Embassy, “The bust of Sir Winston Churchill, by Sir Jacob Epstein, was lent to the George W Bush administration from the UK’s Government Art Collection, for the duration of the Presidency. When that administration came to an end so did the loan; the bust now resides in the British Ambassador’s Residence in Washington DC. The White House collection has its own Epstein bust of Churchill, which President Obama showed to Prime Minister Cameron when he visited the White House in March”
That other Churchill bust dates back to the Nixon administration, it turns out.
And this, of course, makes Mitt Romney’s faux outrage over Obama sending back one of two busts, when it was already scheduled to be returned, even more ridiculous.
Mitt Romney So Angry About Bust of Churchill Still Being in the White House Just Like Always, We Guess