Obama on Churchill: ‘I Love The Guy’ But Preferred Martin Luther King Jr. Bust In Oval Office

President George W. Bush listens to journalists' questions after receiving a bust of Sir. Winston Churchill from the British Ambassador at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC 16 July 2001.
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama is speaking out on the frequent criticism of him for taking a bust of Winston Churchill out of the Oval Office and returning it to the United Kingdom.

Obama says there’s still a bust of Churchill in the White House, outside the Treaty Room. He says it’s there “voluntarily.” He did, however, send back one that was loaned to the Bush administration.

“I love Winston Churchill,” Obama said. “I love the guy.”

He says he took the Churchill bust out of the Oval Office because “there’s only so many tables where you can put busts” and that too many sculptures in the office would make it look “cluttered.”

Instead, he says, he prefers a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I suspect most people here in the United Kingdom might agree that as the first African-American president, it might be appropriate to have a bust of a Dr. Martin Luther King in my office” to remind him of all the hard work done by so many people to allow him to eventually be president, he explained.

Obama made his comments at a press conference in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron. London Mayor Boris Johnson criticized the president for removing the bust ahead of his visit to the United Kingdom. “Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender,” he wrote in the British tabloid “The Sun.”

This is the first time Obama has admitted to personally being involved in the decision. Obama currently has two busts in the Oval Office, one of Martin Luther King Jr. and one of Abraham Lincoln.

He also has Frederic Remington’s sculpture The Bronco Buster on one of the tables in his office.