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.
Pfeiffer’s attempt to play fact checker was more than mere ineptness. The original incident was widely reported by multiple outlets in February 2009. As the Hill put it, when Speaker of the House John Boehner announced last December that the Churchill statue would be put up in the Capitol, Republicans were trying to remind voters of the bust that Obama “famously” returned.
Moreover, the British Embassy in Washington has, to put it mildly, not been shy about showing off the bust.
The Post’s Glenn Kessler wrote last March in a fact check of Mike Huckabee:
Huckabee is right that the British press went a little nuts over this issue. But the bust was on loan from the British to President George W. Bush and the White House said it was due to be returned before Obama even arrived at the White House. Still, the British embassy said they would extend the loan if Obama wished. But Obama replaced the bust with one of Abraham Lincoln — a Republican! — and now the Churchill bust resides at the residence of the British ambassador. Obama later tried make amends, praising Churchill at a news conference and making a point of noting he kept a biography of Churchill on display.
It is a bit of a stretch to think that Pfeiffer wasn’t aware of the bust flap. His White House bio reminds us, “Dan Pfeiffer joined the White House as Deputy Communications Director in January 2009 and has served as the Director of Communications since December 2009.” It’s not like he wasn’t there or stories about White House goofs weren’t on his radar screen.
Pfeiffer’s lame attempt to confuse the media over an incident that could easily be (and was) checked out on Friday in a matter of hours (or minutes, for those of us who remember the incident well) suggest either arrogant overreach (Who’ll check this out on opening night of the Olympics?) or an attack machine that’s lost some sprockets (or both). So used to attacking the opponent 24/7 and playing the “out of context” game, perhaps the Obama spin machine has forgotten how to deal with inconvenient facts, let alone apologize. (As of this writing Pfeiffer had not retracted his false accusation.)