Guess What? The Churchill Bust Is Still In The White House (Or At Least One Of Them Is)

The story behind President Obama’s decision to replace the bust of Winston Churchill that had been in the Oval Office since shortly after September 11, 2001 with a bust of Abraham Lincoln has, for some bizarre reason been a bugaboo on the right for the past three years. It’s cited quite frequently as evidence of the Obama Administration’s disdain for the “special relationship” with the United Kingdom, and has even been used by some as “proof” of the President’s Kenyan sympathies. What nobody seems to have realized, though, is that the bust is still in the White House:

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 [Note – the National Journal link is archived and only available to subscribers — Ed.] 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.”

I’ll admit that this is news to me since I’d always assumed that the bust had been returned, and I never really bothered to look into the details of the story because I considered the entire meme to be completely ridiculous. But the fact that there are two news reports out there substantiating the fact the bust wasn’t returned but simply moved to another location suggests that the people who latched onto this meme aren’t just exaggerating a ridiculous story, they are lying.

Yea, I know you’re as shocked about that as I am.

In any event, you need not worry Anglophiles Sir Winston remains safe and sound at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Now, can we talk about something that matters?

Update It’s worth noting that there have been conflicting media reports about this over the last three years. In 2009, The Telegraph had reported that it had been returned and was at the British Embassy in Washington. In 2010, CBS News repeated that the bust had been returned as previously scheduled before Obama had taken office. However, that photograph seems to be pretty clear evidence of where the bust is, at least on the day that Prime Minister Cameron visited the White House.

Update # 2: So, it turns out there are two Churchill busts. Also, the one that was in the Oval Office was only intended to be there for the duration of the Bush Presidency.

Photo: 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)

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Politicians, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jay says:

    “Now, can we talk about something that matters?”

    Yeah, like Mitt Romney’s tax returns!

  2. mantis says:

    It’s cited quite frequently as evidence of the Obama Administration’s disdain for the “special relationship” with the United Kingdom, and has even been used by some as “proof” of the President’s Kenyan sympathies.

    Well sure. After all, Abraham Lincoln is a well-known Kenyan.

  3. Chad S says:

    I never understood why Obama’s critics slammed him for removing a foreign leader’s bust for that of a Republican president’s but oh well: I guess its easier to just yell and scream.

  4. DJ Drummond says:

    Well, the thing to remember about Churchill’s bust, and no one can deny it, is that Obama did not build that!

  5. mantis says:

    Hey, it’s the liar DJ Drummond! How’s it going in the swamp, DJ?

  6. In related news, I learned that “Omnishambles” was a word coined in the British sitcom The Thick Of It, now used colloquially in British politics.

    The Thick of It is a British comedy television series that satirises the inner workings of modern British government, reported to be excellent.

    So “Omnishambles” was a word tailor made to become #romneyshambles

    And of course now Mitt’s quest to return the bust is a solid #romneyshambles

  7. Vast Variety says:

    That photo would be great for a caption contest.

  8. Murray says:

    “Now, can we talk about something that matters?”

    Nobody asked you to bring this up, even less give it such extensive coverage.

  9. al-Ameda says:

    Finally, now we can throw Lincoln out of there and restore Churchill to the place of prominence in the White House.

    Isn’t that what conservatives want?

  10. legion says:

    @Chad S: Because Obama’s critics only ever shouted that Obama moved Churchill’s bust, never mentioning that it was replaced with that of Lincoln. It was a shabby, but effective, tactic to smear Obama during the early days of his Presidency.

  11. Nikki says:

    Last night, at his $2 mil fundraiser, Romney told the room that he was looking forward to returning the bust to the White House. The crowd applauded. Now this.

  12. Rob in CT says:

    I’ll admit that this is news to me since I’d always assumed that the bust had been returned, and I never really bothered to look into the details of the story because I considered the entire meme to be completely ridiculous.

    I have to admit to the same thing. I found the whole thing to be such ridiculous, trumped-up garbage that I never checked to see if it was based on a flat-out lie. I shoulda known.

    Incidently, my 86-year old father, a British ex-pat, bought into the meme hook, line and sinker. Why? He watches a lot of FOX, that’s why.

  13. Scott says:

    So why do Republicans hate Lincoln? Because he freed the slaves? Oops. Sorry That’s worth a down thumb!

  14. mantis says:

    Last night, at his $2 mil fundraiser, Romney told the room that he was looking forward to returning the bust to the White House.

    Maybe he will retroactively remove it before returning it.

  15. Ernieyeball says:

    @mantis: That would be well known KENtucYAN to you bug eyes!

  16. Jay_Dubbs says:

    Apparently there were two busts and one was returned to the British Embassy because it was a loaner anyway.

    I hear GOP is now seeking to have Churchill exhumed, so he can be stuffed and placed in Oval Office of next GOP President.

  17. Ernieyeball says:

    @Jay_Dubbs: Great!
    Then there would by a place to put Владимир Ильич Ульянов
    without digging another hole!

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/15/lenin-body-moscow-burying-news

  18. Tillman says:

    I’ll admit that this is news to me since I’d always assumed that the bust had been returned, and I never really bothered to look into the details of the story because I considered the entire meme to be completely ridiculous.

    I’ll admit I didn’t even know there was a story concerning a bust in the Oval Office until Romney’s Britain trip.

  19. de stijl says:

    @john personna:

    So “Omnishambles” was a word tailor made to become #romneyshambles

    Can we look forward to Romnibus spending bills?

    If the President is Romnipotent, Romnipresent, and Romniscient, why do bad things happen to good people?

  20. repsac3 says:

    If R-money is elected, he won’t have to add anything. He’ll be a bust in the Oval Office all on his own.

    Glad to see the great mystery was solved, however. Churchill never left, AND he was returned, as well. Imagine what the rumormongers could’ve done with a third Churchill bust. (He’d probably be with all those circa 2001 keyboards with the missing “W” keys.)

  21. repsac3 says:

    Y’know… This revelation about there being two Churchill busts elicits more questions than it answers… Where was the Nixon-era bust while the Bush-era bust was in the Oval Office? Were both on display in different places in the White House, or is the truth that, rather than Obama removing a Churchill bust and thereby showing his distain for the man, the Brits, , etc, he (or the staff, obviously) actually went to the trouble of getting the older bust out of storage and on display, showing his admiration for the man and his country?

    Enquiring mind want to know… (OK, not really… except in the sense that this silly Churchill meme that was being packaged and sold by these folks may turn out to show the exact opposite of what they hoped to show… I do loves me that kinda irony…)

  22. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    Well it is current, with this only hours ago:
    Romney ‘Looking Forward’ To Returning Churchill Bust to White House

    I doubt that Obama’s White House Security Staff will let Romney visit the White House with a stolen Churchill statue.

  23. al-Ameda says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Incidently, my 86-year old father, a British ex-pat, bought into the meme hook, line and sinker. Why? He watches a lot of FOX, that’s why.

    I hear you. Every time I drop by to see my 89 year old dad, if he’s not watching a ball game he’s watching FoxNews. And when we chat current issues (his choice, not mine) he gives me the Fox talking points. Fox has the old white guy demographic locked up.