Churchill or bust: British Embassy says White House was wrong - sort of

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer on Friday posted this photo online in an attempt to debunk claims that President Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill when he took office. White House

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer on Friday posted this photo online in a somewhat failed attempt to debunk claims that President Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill when he took office.
White House

(CBS News) The White House's case arguing President Obama never returned a bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill turned out to be somewhat of a bust itself.

The British Embassy on Friday confirmed to Mediaite.com that despite caustic pushback from an Obama administration official, conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer was correct when he wrote in his column this week that Mr. Obama "started his presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office."

A photo showing the president and British Prime Minister David Cameron leaning over a Churchill bust outside the Treaty Room was posted to the White House blog Friday in an effort by Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer to debunk what he called the "patently false" claim by Krauthammer. But according to the Embassy, the bust in the photo is just a copy of the original.

"When that administration came to an end so did the loan; the bust now resides in the British Ambassador's Residence in Washington DC," the Embassy said. "The White House collection has its own Epstein bust of Churchill, which President Obama showed to Prime Minister Cameron when he visited the White House in March."

But Pfeiffer is refusing to back down. Following the Embassy's statement on Saturday, he updated his original post arguing the bust in the White House today is the original from the 1960s; the one returned at the start of this administration was lent to President George W. Bush by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and "on January 20, 2009 - Inauguration Day - all of the art lent specifically for President Bush's Oval Office was removed by the curator's office, as is common practice at the end of every presidency," he wrote.

Pfeiffer condemned "the idea put forward by Charles Krauthammer and others that President Obama returned the Churchill bust or refused to display the bust because of antipathy towards the British" as "completely false and an urban legend." The "others" include presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who fueled the debate Thursday when he vowed to return the bust should he take the Oval Office in November.

The Embassy tacked onto its statement a piece of advice: "Churchill Bust story is a silly diversion - let's get on and focus on seeing who wins most medals in the Olympics."

  • Lindsey Boerma On Twitter»

    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.