Even though it was confirmed at the time?
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.
A bust of the former prime minister once voted the greatest Briton in history, which was loaned to George W Bush from the Government’s art collection after the September 11 attacks, has now been formally handed back.
The bronze by Sir Jacob Epstein, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds if it were ever sold on the open market, enjoyed pride of place in the Oval Office during President Bush’s tenure.
But when British officials offered to let Mr Obama to hang onto the bust for a further four years, the White House said: “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Diplomats were at first reluctant to discuss the whereabouts of the Churchill bronze, after its ejection from the seat of American power. But the British Embassy in Washington has now confirmed that it sits in the palatial residence of ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald, just down the road from Vice President Joe Biden’s official residence. It is not clear whether the ambassador plans to keep it in Washington or send it back to London.
American politicians have made quoting Churchill, whose mother was American, something of an art form, but not Mr Obama, who prefers to cite the words and works of his hero
Abraham Lincoln. Indeed a bust of Mr Lincoln now sits in the Oval Office where Epstein’s Churchill once ruled the roost.
Update: The bust the White House claimed today was the one that was supposedly never returned is actually a different one which was already part of the White House collection. Obama did return the bust lent to Bush and it is currently at the British ambassador’s house.
(CNN) – A bronze bust of Winston Churchill is becoming hotly contested in Washington. Well, actually, make that two of them.
A bust of the former British Prime Minister was lent by the British government to the White House in 2001 and displayed in the Oval Office. Conservatives, pointing to reports from British and American news outlets, blasted President Barack Obama for allegedly returning the statue after becoming president in 2009.
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer blasted back Friday, saying the statue remains in the White House, but has moved positions to a hallway outside the Treaty Room, in the president’s residence.
In a blog post on the White House’s website, Pfeiffer included an official White House photo of Obama viewing the bust with British Prime Minister David Cameron during a visit in 2010.
“Hopefully this clears things up a bit and prevents folks from making this ridiculous claim again,” Pfeiffer wrote.
But late Friday, British Embassy Spokesman James Barbour said there were actually two busts of Churchill, both by artist Sir Jacob Epstein.
The one that was loaned to the George W. Bush administration in 2001 was returned after Bush left office and now resides at the British ambassador’s residence in Washington.
A second bust, which is part of the White House’s own art collection, is displayed in the White House. It is that bust which Obama is pictured looking at with Cameron in 2010.
Update: CBS’ Mark Knoller sums it up.
Bottom line: the Churchill bust given to Pres GW Bush was returned to the British Embassy. The other bust remains on display.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) July 27, 2012
Update: White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer just updated his blog post after he was busted lying about it not being returned. Did he really think nobody would ask the Brits if Obama gave it back?
Update: Since my post on the fact that the bust of Winston Churchill has remained on display in the White House, despite assertions to the contrary, I have received a bunch of questions — so let me provide some additional info. The White House has had a bust of Winston Churchill since the 1960’s. At the start of the Bush administration Prime Minister Blair lent President Bush a bust that matched the one in the White House, which was being worked on at the time and was later returned to the residence. The version lent by Prime Minister Blair was displayed by President Bush until the end of his Presidency. On January 20, 2009 — Inauguration Day — all of the art lent specifically for President Bush’s Oval Office was removed by the curator’s office, as is common practice at the end of every presidency. The original Churchill bust remained on display in the residence. The idea put forward by Charles Krauthammer and others that President Obama returned the Churchill bust or refused to display the bust because of antipathy towards the British is completely false and an urban legend that continues to circulate to this day.