Busted: Two statues amount to one Churchill bust of a controversy
July 27th, 2012
04:36 PM ET
10 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. Rational Db8

    Wire Palladin, S. F.

    The way Mittens' campaign is going, you would think Rove would try to talk Gov. Perry into getting back in the race.

    You're behind the times or delusional. Romney is currently 5 points ahead in major polls – the same lead Obama had at this point in his campaign.

    July 27, 2012 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  2. g

    if mitts grandfather gave up his citizen ship to go to mexico–would that mean mitts father born in mexico was not american .which means mitt is a illegal immigrant

    July 27, 2012 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  3. Chelle

    Americans are priceless!!! Prime Minister Churchill was an amazing man and was insulting America by saying you eventually figure out what is right. Why on earth would Mitt Romney use that quote??

    Secondly, this is an issue? GWB wanted a bust in the Oval Office – so Obama is supposed to want it as well?

    July 27, 2012 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Conservatives are embarrased by their bafoon of a presidential candidate so they are making stuff up in a lame a$$ attempt to say "see, your guy can't relate to the British either." They have absolutely nothing so they need to make up lies. It's sad that so many buy their nonsense.

    July 27, 2012 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  5. Seriously?

    rrd: Talk about chicken, Obama didn't even enlist during peacetime.

    You're kidding, right? If you're not kidding: That is so lame! Obama was 13 years old during the last year this country drafted young men to Vietnam. I can't believe you are comparing a draft-dodging chickenhawk who received FOUR separate deferments of serving in Vietnam, although happily stood in picket lines in support of the very war he was too chickenhawk to be a part of. Wow. That truly defies logic. The selective GOP "outrage" just never ceases to amaze me. It's mind boggling.

    July 27, 2012 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  6. 0rangeW3dge

    Well, I certainly will vote for him,,,,just to get the Churchill statue moved back to another room...

    This is what Republicans mean when they say "Take It Back" ?????

    July 27, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  7. Yonni

    This is not totally important matter at all. But, what mind boggling is that Mitt the Mormon bishop telling untrue tell all over the world. I wanted to know about Mormon religion; because I am getting curious day by day this bishop is utterly dishonest.

    July 27, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  8. What?

    So when Obama team found out what a blunder he made returning one bust they pulled the other bust out, from who knows where, dusted it off and suddenly everything is fine and dandy. What a bunch of baloney!

    July 27, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  9. The DeMBA

    Obama put a bust of Abraham Lincoln in place of the one of Winston Churchill.

    Mitt Romney is saying is he wants to move out a bust of the first Republican President of the United States, often regarded as the greatest President, who led our nation through civil war and away from slavery. He'll replace Lincoln with a foreign head of state who led the introduction of socialized medicine.

    Romney's preference for Winston Churchill is apparently based on his ability to "turn a phrase"; as opposed to Lincoln who's Gettysburg address in Romney's view just didn't measure up.

    July 27, 2012 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  10. What?

    @Sniffer – you really don't get the significance of Obama returning the bust? Come on, boy, get with reality. It matters how we treat our allies.

    July 27, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  11. MTATL67

    OH MY GOD Conservatives, Republicans hate the President so much they are going to make up stuff just because #romneyshambles – PATHETIC

    July 27, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  12. What?

    Hey Wire Palladin – Let's get back to the 21st Century and the candidates. Look at THEIR history. Pot smoking associate of William Ayers (terrorist), son of a mus lim, abor tion advocate (even to the extent of taking the life if abor tion is botched) vs. , well ... it doesn't really matter who he runs against- anyone's record is better!

    July 27, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  13. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    Obama put a bust of Martin Luther King in the Oval Office instead. But last time I checked, his birthday is a national holiday in the U.S.–not Winston Churchill's, no disrespect meant to the latter. Where was all this Republican support for the UK back in the 1930s, when they were passing those Neutrality Acts?

    July 27, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  14. Rational Db8

    @Wire Palladin, S. F. said: "Let's compare the history of the two grandfathers of Obama and Mittens.

    If you had any real interest in comparisons of this nature, and in honesty, you would have noted that while you have to go back three generations to find a polygamist in Romney's ancestry (his great-grandfather who died in 1904 was the one who went to Mexico, not his grandfather), meanwhile Obama's father was a polygamist from Kenya (never a USA citizen); his grandfather was a polygamist; and his great-grandfather was a polygamist who had one more wife (five in total) than Romney's great-grandfather. It seems President Obama is the first male in his line not to be a polygamist.

    So trying to play the polygamy angle as supposedly favorable to Obama is, well, nuts.

    July 27, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  15. Thomas

    @Gordon Clarke
    Winston Churchill was one of the greatest men of the 20th century. Soldier,author,journalist,parliamentarian and of course the greatest war time leader of the English speaking peoples.

    Barrack Obama is not fit to rinse out Churchill's underwear or wash his socks in the sink.

    Fortunately , your comparison is irrelevant , as is your respect for office.
    Why is it only half men speak for those not alive to speak. I'm sure Winston Churchill would have other concerns if alive today rather then where his bust was !

    You and people like Newt Gingrich tend to live in the past , rewrite history , think of things in a world that is no longer black and white . It's fun to think about what Winston would think of GW Bush or Mitt Romney.

    Romney or Roosevelt ?

    July 27, 2012 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  16. David C Boggs

    You know, he more i read comments from the Obama lovers, i sometimes hope he wins just so i can listen to them continue to make excuses for our continuing decline. Will it still be Bush's fault or the republicans in congress? I think it is unbelievable that people would look around at what is happening to our country and economy and say " I want 4 more years of this". UNBELIEVABLE!!

    July 27, 2012 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  17. g2-554d155ee0aaa518e03a7e70d9cd6b0b

    He wants a bust of a man he says insulted the United States to be sitting in his oval office? Really? Or does Mr. Romney really think that statement was intended as a compliment??

    July 27, 2012 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  18. Mr. Moderate

    He replaced the Churchill bust with one of ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Can you imagine if it was reversed and Obama replaced a Lincoln bust with one of Churchill (a foreigner, gasp!), the screams from the right would be deafening.

    July 27, 2012 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  19. enuff

    What part of it was "ON LOAN" to the whitehouse do people not understand???? It was not meant to have a permanent place there. It was on loan during the Bush administration. When that was over, it was returned. End of story. Why is Romney asking for it back? It is not an international crisis!

    July 27, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  20. Rational Db8

    @Wire Palladin, S. F. "The way Mittens' campaign is going, you would think Rove would try to talk Gov. Perry into getting back in the race."

    With current major national polls showing Romney with a 5 point lead, the same as Obama had at this point in his campaign??

    July 27, 2012 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  21. Kslov

    ...squirrel..lol. I. Something written; by unknown. – MIT is like an, America bowrat.lol

    July 27, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  22. rick

    Churchill ain't American!

    July 27, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  23. truth hurts

    >Wire Palladin, S. F. – Let's compare the history of the two grandfathers

    seriously????? why skip over their own fathers? romneys was a highly successful governor and businessman. obamas was drunken socialist/communist with multiple wives at the same time, abandoned his family. romneys a family of suceess, obamas a family of failures. it explains a lot. success is in the genes of the romneys, failure in obama.

    July 27, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  24. "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." --B. Obama

    The private sector is doing fine.

    July 27, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  25. GI Joe

    Smoked and drank like a fish. Mitt's hero.

    July 27, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
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