This was not a good day for the “normally serene White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer,” as ABC’s Jake Tapper describes him, to come out of his tiny White House office and make a bold and blatantly false statement regarding the now infamous bust of Winston Churchill that used to reside in the White House Oval Office. Here is what Pfeiffer wrote earlier today:
Lately, there’s been a rumor swirling around about the current location of the bust of Winston Churchill. Some have claimed that President Obama removed the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and sent it back to the British Embassy.
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 (sic). In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.
The thing is, when you’re going to write a “fact check” article or blog post, you might want to, you know, check your facts. We know that this is usually an extremely difficult task for the Obama White House. Thankfully, Twitter user @RBPundit was all over this story and did Dan Pfeiffer’s job for him.
Jake Tapper figured out what is going on. It turns out there were two Churchill busts in the White House. One is still there. The other — the one that used to be in the Oval Office, the one which Charles Krauthammer was referring to — has been returned to the British. To quote Shaggy from Scooby Doo, “ZOINKS!!”
Considering that this had been an international story a few years ago, you’d think that fact-checking wouldn’t be so hard for the White House.
CBS’s Mark Knoller summed it up best.
Later today, Dan Pfeiffer published this addendum to his post:
Since my post on the fact that the bust of Winston Churchill has remained on display in the White House, despite assertions to the contrary, I have received a bunch of questions — so let me provide some additional info. The White House has had a bust of Winston Churchill since the 1960’s. At the start of the Bush administration Prime Minister Blair lent President Bush a bust that matched the one in the White House, which was being worked on at the time and was later returned to the residence. The version lent by Prime Minister Blair was displayed by President Bush until the end of his Presidency. 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.
Pfeiffer doesn’t call it a correction or retraction, but he now seems to concede what Krauthammer contended — namely, that the Churchill bust that was in the Oval Office during the Bush Administration was removed when President Obama came into office. Perhaps this is “a common practice at the end of every presidency,” as Pfeiffer contends, but that is sort of beside the point. Krauthammer’s assertion was factually accurate, as even Mediaite (a left-leaning media website) concedes:
The British Embassy has confirmed thatWashington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer was correct when he wrote that a bust of Winston Churchill was removed from the White House when Barack Obama took office.
So what’s next for Dan Pfeiffer?
We can all wait for that apology. But one thing we’ve learned in politics: Never let a good lie get in the way of an apology.