White House Denies Obama Returned Churchill Bust to UK Ambassador

On Thursday Mitt Romney said he was looking forward to returning the bust of Winston Churchill to the White House. If you recall, it had been loaned to the White House and Obama sent it back. Romney, visiting the UK, said he would bring it back. Everyone had a few laughs at the jab and all went back to normal.

But then, the White House got involved. White House spokesman, Dan Pfeiffer, wrote on the White House website that the bust had never left the White House.

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.

That settles it, right?

Wrong.

You see, the claim is not 100% false. It’s actually true. Says who? Why, Media Matters, in fact.

A British Embassy spokesman said: “The bust of Sir Winston Churchill by Sir Jacob Epstein was uniquely lent to a foreign head of state, President George W Bush, from the Government Art Collection in the wake of 9/11 as a signal of the strong transatlantic relationship.

“It was lent for the first term of office of President Bush. When the President was elected for his second and final term, the loan was extended until January 2009.

“The new President has decided not to continue this loan and the bust has now been returned. It is on display at the Ambassador’s Residence.

Emphasis mine.

So, who’s lying? Obviously, the bust did leave the White House, went on display at the Ambassador’s Residence, and then made its way back to the White House.

And there’s more.

Diplomats were at first reluctant to discuss the whereabouts of the Churchill bronze, after its ejection from the seat of American power. But the British Embassy in Washington has now confirmed that it sits in the palatial residence of ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald, just down the road from Vice President Joe Biden’s official residence. It is not clear whether the ambassador plans to keep it in Washington or send it back to London.

Poor Team Obama. Can’t keep the lies straight.

There’s been some debate on what Pfeiffer said. In order to clear up what he said in the White House post linked above, let’s look at how he tweeted it:

You see that? He said it was a “false rumor that POTUS gave back” the bust. Clearly, since the bust was in the Ambassador’s house, POTUS did, in fact, give it back. Otherwise, words have no meaning.

UPDATE: Jake Tapper of ABC got to the bottom of the story: there are two Churchill busts. One is permanently stored in the Presidential Residence of the White House, given to the White House during the Nixon Years. The one stored in the Oval Office during George W. Bush's administration was on loan from the UK's government art collection. 

Had Dan Pfeiffer explained this distinction, there wouldn't be any confusion, but to prevent the White House from admitting that the bust in the Oval Office had, in fact, been removed, he chose to omit this clarifying information.


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