Busted: Two statues amount to one Churchill bust of a controversy
July 27th, 2012
04:36 PM ET
2 years ago

Busted: Two statues amount to one Churchill bust of a controversy

(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.

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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.

On Thursday, the bust was referred to on the campaign trail during remarks Mitt Romney made in London.

"I'm looking forward to the bust of Winston Churchill being in the Oval Office again," Romney told a crowd of supporters at the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge. Romney did not say or suggest the bust had ever left the White House.

It wasn't the first time the candidate made that vow.

"One of my heroes was a man who had an extraordinary turn of phrase," Romney said at a CNN sponsored presidential debate in September. "He once said about us, he said, you know, you can count on the Americans to get things right after they've exhausted all the alternatives. And now and then we've made a couple of mistakes. We're quite a nation. And this man, Winston Churchill, used to have his bust in the Oval Office. And if I'm president of the United States, it'll be there again."

UPDATE: Late Friday afternoon, Pfeiffer updated his blog post to explain the two busts and said the idea "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."

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Filed under: White House
soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. MDNA = MaDge Not Applicable!

    "watch FOX...... get informed"

    On all the hard hitting news, such as how a duplicate bust of an Anglo-Saxon was returned to the Homeland?

    July 27, 2012 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  2. Liz the First

    Funny that there's a dispute over something British. wouldn't be the first time. seems back in '76, make that 1776, the conservatives were on the side of the British then, too. if we'd listened to them then, we'd still be singing God Save the Queen instead of the Star Spangled Banner! and they haven't done anything good for the country since! it's time conservatism was relegated to the scrap heap of history, where it belongs.

    July 27, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  3. rockland steel

    Um, turns out obummers grandfather serving with patton, was just another lie in the mystery presidents made for TV bio. And we all know that oshamba did return the bust from the oval office to the brits. Man, can't you koolaid guzzlers just deal with the subject? All the mittman said was he was going to return the bust to the oval office. There was no lie, and all some folks here can do is lie to back up the soon to be x mystery president. Is giving two years of tax returns when running for president against the law? No, spin that one.

    July 27, 2012 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  4. YOU PEOPLE

    so the GOP accused Obama fo something and they were wrong about it? OMG this never happens does it....unless of course you want to bring up
    the Obama apology tour
    Obama raised taxes on all Americans
    Death panels
    Born in Kenya
    Has a fake SS number
    Is a Muslim
    Wants to take everyone's guns away
    Nah...the GOP would NEVER accuse the president of anything without facts to back it up.

    July 27, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  5. Matt in ID

    I think its rather odd that a Mormom considers a heavy-drinking, cigar-smoking, tea-drinking adulterer a hero. Doesn't sound like a Values candidate to me.

    July 27, 2012 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  6. The Other Dale

    Seems the "Obama bad" crowd didn't read the story – as posted there, the truth is that this is just an urban legend that Romney has foolishly played up, once again making himself look like an idiot to the British and Europeans.

    Another stop n the "Mitt in Mouth Tour 2012!"

    July 27, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  7. Karina

    You have to know your history to understand the importance of the present of Churchill's bust to the White House.
    He is one of the the most revered statesmen and was a great politician.
    Some of his words of wisdom were , if you are not liberal when you are young you have no heart , if you are a liberal when you get older you have no brain.
    Obama returned the bust to England as soon as he became President.
    An insult not just to England but the free western world.
    Americans have become so divided and mean spirited , some of these comments are such infantile drivel and makes you wonder how old the writer is.

    July 27, 2012 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  8. Franks

    That's a rather ugly statue. I wouldn't want it in my office.

    July 27, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  9. bilk7

    I guess Romney and these other nitwits putting Obama down for this statue thing missed the part where it was on loan to us. A loan means it get returned eventually!

    July 27, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  10. Donkey Party

    @ Jack Bissette – "Watch Fox...get informed".

    Wow, that's got to be a joke. Statistics show that Fox News viewers are less informed than people who watch NO news at all.

    July 28, 2012 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  11. Jeff

    "Thomas
    @Jack Bissette
    Actually the bust that Romney was talking about... was removed and given back to the British embassy. It was considered quite the slap in the face and relation's were cold for awhile.

    Please !"

    Please is right: "The one that was loaned to the George W. Bush...." So, if it was loaned to GW Bush, Obama should keep it? Or do we just wait until that awkward moment when they say "ummmm, can we have that bust back?" WHAT DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT LOANED MEANS? It means it is not permanent.

    This is a manufactured outrage made possible by the media and political serial outragists.

    July 28, 2012 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  12. truegrit1

    Romney continues to demonstrate that he prefers the trivial to substance

    July 28, 2012 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  13. J.V.Hodgson

    To be kind to Romney and all we Americans who read this nonsense and say ( paraphrasing Winston) which he would hate:-
    Never, in the history of the American nation, has there been so much trivia, broadcast by so many, to so few interested, in the history of our great nation.
    Wherever his BUST is; its mental anguish on this garbage will make his favorite Havana cigar burn too quick!!.
    Now pick the political bones out of that comment!!
    The paraphrase is of the Battle of Britain speech where he said in part ( about the RAF) " never, in the history of the British nation, has so much, been owed by so many, to so few. the commas/pause create the real effect from his sonorous voice.
    Ta sniffit as the brits say you ar 100% on the button.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    July 28, 2012 04:44 am at 4:44 am |
  14. Tom

    To Gordon Clarke:
    Read a little about Churchill during his time in Aouth Africa and I think it will change your mind a little. He did not lose his post after the war for nothing

    July 28, 2012 04:46 am at 4:46 am |
  15. Tom

    Sorry! South Africa

    July 28, 2012 04:47 am at 4:47 am |
  16. Tom

    And India as well

    July 28, 2012 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  17. damo12345

    ...How many busts of Churchill do we NEED exactly? By the same artist, even? I mean, one's nice, but unless you're using them as bookends that should about do it.

    Complete non-issue. I don't blame Mitt for TRYING to get in at least one little zing at Obama after his disastrous arrival in London, but this is a bit sad.

    July 28, 2012 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  18. typicallll

    Wait a minute..... I thought the busts were LOANED to Bush... When things are loaned to people, aren't they suppose to be returned back?

    July 28, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  19. B.Johnson

    winston churchill is a war criminal and should have been caught and shot! insted he turned to the US to fight his war against the germans that would have done his country in so he had to orcastrate pearl harbor
    what a shame this criminal shouldnt be anywhere let alone the white house

    July 28, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  20. Ideas, Ideals, not ideologies

    Why don't we find every bust of Churchill that exists and put one iin every room in the White House. Isn't one enough?

    July 28, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  21. T'sah From Virginia

    BUSH: I look like this because I am stoned – what's your excuse!!!???

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    July 28, 2012 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
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