White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer took to his blog today to “correct the record,” or something. Responding to a quote from conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer who noted that “Obama started his presidency by returning… the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office,” Pfeiffer said, “This is 100% false.”
“The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.” Pfeiffer wrote. Instead of being removed, Pfeiffer insisted the bust of Churchill had been “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.”
To assert his case once and for all, Pfeiffer included a “picture of the President showing off the Churchill bust to Prime Minister [David] Cameron when he visited the White House residence in 2010″:
Well I’ll be darned! There’s Obama, Cameron and Churchill. That settles it, right?
The original report of the bust’s removal actually came from the British Embassy. In February 2009, just one month after Obama took office, the British Embassy told The Telegraph that the Churchill bust now “sits in the palatial residence of ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald.”
B-b-but there’s a picture of it with Obama! In the White House! The Telegraph continued:
‘The bust of Sir Winston Churchill by Sir Jacob Epstein was uniquely lent to a foreign head of state, President George W Bush, from the Government Art Collection in the wake of 9/11 as a signal of the strong transatlantic relationship. It was lent for the first term of office of President Bush. When the President was elected for his second and final term, the loan was extended until January 2009.
The new President has decided not to continue this loan and the bust has now been returned. It is on display at the Ambassador’s Residence.” Moreover, 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.”
As it turns out, there are two busts of Winston Churchill — one in the White House residence which was a gift from the British during the Nixon administration, and the other at the ambassador’s residence which was gifted by Tony Blair following 9/11.
So yes, while there is a bust of Winston Churchill in the White House, it’s not the bust Krauthammer and the Brits are talking about. Given this knowledge, do you think Pfeiffer cares to actually correct the record? Nope:
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.