House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, is still weeks away from taking over the Speaker's gavel, but is already throwing around the weight of a new Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
On Tuesday, the Speaker-to-be warned the Smithsonian Institution that if it did not pull its controversial exhibit -- "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" -- which featured images of an ant-covered crucifix and "homoerotic" art, its federal funding will come under serious scrutiny when Congress considers the next budget.
In a follow-up to yesterday's story on the Christmastime exhibit, CNSNews.com asked a number of congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle whether the exhibit should continue or be canceled. Both Minority Leader Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor indicated it should be canceled.
“American families have a right to expect better from recipients of taxpayer funds in a tough economy,” Boehner’s Spokesman Kevin Smith told CNSNews.com. “While the amount of money involved may be small, it’s symbolic of the arrogance Washington routinely applies to thousands of spending decisions involving Americans’ hard-earned money at a time when one in every 10 Americans is out of work and our children’s future is being threatened by debt.
“Smithsonian officials should either acknowledge the mistake and correct it, or be prepared to face tough scrutiny beginning in January when the new majority in the House moves to end the job-killing spending spree in Washington,” Smith said.
When asked to clarify what exactly Boehner meant by calling on the Smithsonian to “correct” their mistake with the exhibit, Smith responded in an email that Boehner wanted the exhibit “cancelled.”
Cantor, meanwhile, said the exhibit should be “pulled.”
“This is an outrageous use of tax payer money and an obvious attempt to offend Christians during the Christmas season,” said Cantor. “When a museum receives taxpayer money, the taxpayers have a right to expect that the museum will uphold common standards of decency. The museum should pull the exhibit and be prepared for serious questions come budget time.”
The offices of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R.-Ky., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) and Jim Clyburn, D.-S.C., the third-ranking Democrat in the House, were also contacted but have yet to comment on the matter.
By Tuesday afternoon, the Smithsonian announced that it would remove the portion of the exhibit which showed ants crawling over a crucifix, but insisted the rest of the exhibit would stay. In a statement, the director of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery clarified that the exhibit was not meant to be "sacrilegious':
"I regret that some reports about the exhibit have created an impression that the video is intentionally sacrilegious," the statement read. "In fact, the artists's intention was to depict the suffering of an AIDS victim. It was not the museum's intention to offend. We are removing the video today. The museum's statement at the exhibition's entrance, 'This exhibition contains mature themes,' will remain in place."
Among the exhibit's "mature themes," as we reported yesterday, are images of male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, a mouth being sewn shut and an Annie Lebovitz portrait of comedian Ellen Degeneres grabbing her breasts.
The "Hide/Seek" exhibit is currently scheduled to run through the Christmas season until it closes in February.