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. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Too, too childish for words, Mitt Romney.

    July 27, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    Oh yes, I see the resemblence...so much alike:

    Churchill got up and walked across the aisle and switched sides because he had principles.

    Mittens wakes up and switches positions because he has no principles.

    See? They are both such mutable characters!

    July 27, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  3. anotherGDlefty

    Well at least FOXPAC and crew is worrying about important things to the average American...

    July 27, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  4. CathyinMN

    You have GOT to be kidding me! Did anyone ask if a bust of a former president has a promienet place at #10 Downing Streeti! Chiildish crap like this is why the american electorate is sick and tired of both parties!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 27, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    Yes, this will certainly turn the tables on Obama. Some silly head-statue isn't in the Oval Office...sooo much worse than telling England that you know better than they do and that you doubt their ability to prepare for the Olympics. Yep. In fact, isn't this grounds for impeachment? Someone call Can'tor and Captain Orange Glow, quick!

    July 27, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  6. truth hurts

    was it replaced with a statue of Rev. Jeremiah Wright?

    July 27, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  7. California Gary

    "And now and then we've made a couple of mistakes"........OMG Romney........are you going around the world apologizing for America? That's a big no no........don't you remember blasting Obama for that very thing? Or have you flip-flopped on that now too?

    July 27, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  8. DJ in TX

    Wow!! I have never seen anyone pander to whatever crowd he's speaking to. What in the hell does a bust of Winston Churchill and where it resides have anything to do with American Politics? Romney has NEVER mentioned Mr. Churchill on the campaign in the U.S. Now, pandering to the Bitish public, he mentions this. He does realize they can't vote in our election, right??

    July 27, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  9. Woman In California

    Willard is out of his league AGAIN. As I recall, Churchill actually fought in some war(s) or another. That alone, sets him apart from Willard, but it is typical of cowards to pretend.

    July 27, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  10. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Too late Mittens, everyone in England knows you are three fries short of a Happy Meal.

    July 27, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  11. Mikey

    How many busts of Winston Churchill do we need to have in the White House? I understand he was an important figure in WWII, but he's not an American. How many busts of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin , Adams, or Lincoln sit in the White House? Don't Conservatives have something more important to be outraged by? LIke providing foodstamps or healthcare services to poor children.

    July 27, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  12. scarf

    I greatly admire Churchill, but that bust is ugly. I wouldn/t have it in my office, either. The fact that W had it in the Oval Office reminds me of when I toured the White House during GHW Bush"s administration. We were in one of the dining rooms (I think it was the Red Room) and looking at all the portraits on the walls, extending from almost the ceiling to the floor, so it was hard to even see the wall between the pictures. I overheard one woman in our tour group mutter, "You shouldn't hang portraits higher than eye level. He has no class."

    July 27, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  13. v_mag

    The entire Bush presidency was a bust.

    Rob-money is not running on his own record. He's running on George W. Bush's record. He's a clone of Bush. He wants to take us back to Bush. Why don't the Repugnants ever trot out Bush and talk about how great a president he was, and how Mittler is so much like him?

    Because Mittler IS so much like him!

    July 27, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  14. NVa Native

    "foxpac" – that's good, and right on target.

    So Obama returns a long ago borrowed piece of art-work to its rightful owner and the GOP tries to slander him for it with their weak puppet of a man (Romoney) leading the delusional charge.
    Yea, that's what has become the lowest of low ~ the GOP ~ creatures of the swamp fighting to the bottom of the gene pool.

    July 27, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  15. drake mallard

    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.

    Romney/Conservatives =stupid is as stupid does

    July 27, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  16. drake mallard

    From Draft Dodging to War Mongering Mitt Romney is George W. Bush

    Mitt Romney was in favour of the war in Vietnam, but was too chicken to fight in it. He had his little pro war sign, and was happy to see other people be sent and get killed, but wouldn't go himself

    July 27, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  17. 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. The bust does belong in the Oval Office... and that's where it should stay. The message of "staying the course" to "persevere" in dark times.... well most Liberals wouldn't know that anyway. Yes.... the message was for Mr. Bush..... and President's that follow. Nothing like trying to re-write history....huhh CNN. With the show's (CNN) put's out and the articles..... no wonder the ratings are in the crapper. The rest of you cool-aid drinks..... read.....pick up a book...... watch FOX...... get informed.

    July 27, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  18. I repeat

    Obama gets elected and then we are saved... again!

    July 27, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  19. ZedLoch

    II originally thought the controversy in this article would be over how horrible the statue in the picture looks.

    July 27, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  20. California Gary

    That's funny wire, but I think he's more than just 3 fries short..........I'm wondering "Where's the beef"?

    July 27, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  21. Anvil of Reality

    Does Mitt realize that UK citizens can't vote in US elections, or is he just in the habit of pandering to any crowd gathered in front of him?

    Embarrassing.

    July 27, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  22. wgf

    So much to say....

    1) If Obama had a bust of Nelson Mandela in the Oval Office, what would the dialogue be ? Would there be allusions to how he's "foreign" and doesn't love America ? Or maybe something worse ?

    2) Does Romney think he's running for the President of Great Britain ? Why is he pandering to them ?

    3) "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."

    The contrast in eloquence is startling.

    July 27, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  23. Hap

    Chuchill slams us and Romney agrees. So now were stupid but exceptional just the same. Just got a repub questionaire that asked if we should treat other countries as equals, really no kidding. This exceptionalism crap is why other countries hate us. Notice we havn't been attacked since we stoped going to other countries and telling them how much better we are. So stupid.

    July 27, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  24. American People

    The American People want to see your tax records for the last 20 years. And want to know how many jobs you offshored.

    July 27, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  25. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Cali Gary – Once again, you are correct, I was wrong. Well done.

    July 27, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
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