Who can forget President Obama’s controversial removal of Winston Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office at the start of his first term, even after the British government offered to let Obama keep the artwork-on-loan there for another four years?
After what many Republicans (and British citizens) considered a snub, another likeness of the iconic British prime minister and symbol of defiance against the Nazis in World War II was dedicated in the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.
In the National Statuary Hall ceremony, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Churchill “the best friend the United States ever had,” the UK Telegraph reported, adding that he hoped members of Congress would visit it when “looking for counsel” or “just hoping to feel a little braver.”
Boehner pushed through a House resolution in December 2011 to commission a bust of Churchill to mark the 70th anniversary that year of his 1941 wartime address to Congress (see clip of speech below).
The new bust was given to Congress by the Winston Churchill Centre and is a casting of an original piece by Oscar Nemon, who produced a number of Churchill statues, the Telegraph states.
The Churchill bust by Sir Jacob Epstein that had been in the Oval Office was loaned to the White House just after 9/11 to underscore the strong bond between the U.S. and the U.K. When then-President George W. Bush was elected for a second and final term, the loan was extended until January 2009, the Telegraph reported; then Obama declined the invitation to keep it another four years.
Oddly, in the wake of the Obama-returns-Churchill-bust controversy, the White House’s official line was that the bust was merely moved to another location.
The “Fact Check” from Deputy White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer claimed the new location of the Epstein/loaned bust of Churchill was in the White House residence.
Pfieffer pointed to an official White House photo of Obama looking at a bust in the residence along with British PM David Cameron in 2010.
There’s only one problem with it…
…it’s not the Churchill bust loaned after 9/11, but one the British government gave to the Nixon administration.
Hence Pfeiffer’s update to his initial post:
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.
Below is a clip from the inspiring 30-minute address Churchill delivered at a Joint Session of Congress on December 26, 1941, a little more than two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor that launched the U.S. into World War II.
“What kind of a people do they think we are?” Churchill asked regarding the Japanese. “Is it possible that they do not realize that we shall never cease to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson which they and the world will never forget?”
(Note: the video’s incorrect graphic says “January 1942″):
Featured image via Boehner preview clip of ceremony.