White House Issues Embarrassing Apology to Charles Krauthammer over Churchill Bust Gaffe

COMMENTARY Global Politics

White House Issues Embarrassing Apology to Charles Krauthammer over Churchill Bust Gaffe

Aug 1st, 2012 2 min read
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.

Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

Nile Gardiner is Director of The Heritage Foundation's Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom.

The Obama presidency is fond of issuing apologies for America on the world stage, but very rarely makes them at home to Americans. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer has just issued one to Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer, who last week wrote an op-ed berating the Obama administration for removing a bust of Sir Winston Churchill from the Oval Office when it came to power. Pfeiffer had issued a stinging attack on Krauthammer, alleging that his Churchill bust reference was “100 percent false.” Krauthammer was of course 100 percent correct, and the British Embassy in Washington even issued a statement contradicting Pfeifer’s remarks.

Here is the full text of Pfeiffer’s mea culpa, published on the White House blog in the form of an open letter to Mr. Krauthammer:


I take your criticism seriously and you are correct that you are owed an apology. There was clearly an internal confusion about the two busts and there was no intention to deceive. I clearly overshot the runway in my post. The point I was trying to make – under the belief that the Bust in the residence was the one previously in the Oval Office– was that this oft repeated talking point about the bust being a symbol of President Obama’s failure to appreciate the special relationship is false. The bust that was returned was returned as a matter of course with all the other artwork that had been loaned to President Bush for display in his Oval Office and not something that President Obama or his Administration chose to do. I still think this is an important point and one I wish I had communicated better.

A better understanding of the facts on my part and a couple of deep breaths at the outset would have prevented this situation. Having said all that, barring a miracle comeback from the Phillies I would like to see the Nats win a world series even if it comes after my apology


Dan Pfeiffer

It is good to see Mr. Pfeiffer finally issue a formal apology, after his juvenile and remarkably ignorant rebuttal of Mr. Krauthammer's Post column generated a media storm. But this does not by any means end the controversy over the decision by the White House to return the Churchill bust. There is still an air of defiance in Pfeiffer’s words, and he categorically claims that the bust was sent back “as a matter of course,” and its return to the British government was “not something that President Obama or his Administration chose to do.”

As I noted in my previous blog on the subject, however, both The Sunday Telegraph and The Times of London ran major articles back in early 2009 revealing that British officials had made it clear to the White House that President Obama could keep the Churchill bust in the Oval Office. In other words, it was the White House’s firm decision to return the bust, and no request was made by the British to have it back. This looks awfully like a deliberate snub of America’s closest friend and ally, and it would be good for the White House to acknowledge the truth, rather than continue to spin a blatantly false and misleading line.

First appeared in The Telegraph.