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Nicely Done, Dan: WH Sorry for Churchill Bust Error

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer did something today I’ve never seen a White House official do in any of the three administrations I covered: He apologized for something.

Okay, probably it’s happened before, but if so I don’t remember it.

Pfeiffer, you’ll remember, had in a White House blog post dismissed in the most scornful manner an assertion by columnist Charles Krauthammer that the bust of Winston Churchill that adorned the Oval Office of George W. Bush had been sent back to the British. Pfeiffer declared the bust had been sent only as far as the White House residence.

Turns out the bust in the White House residence was a second likeness of the British leader, and the Oval Office bust was now indeed in the hands of the Brits, over at the embassy on Massachusetts Avenue.

So then, in a tactless “update” to the original post, Pfeiffer corrected the mistake without a hint of remorse or even a suggestion that he had erred. It demonstrated a disconcerting level of hubris and nastiness in someone so close to the President of the United States.

Krauthammer demanded an apology, which he doubted he’d ever get. I too assumed nothing nice would be coming Krauthammer’s way.

Yesterday, Krauthammer got his apology. Pfeiffer, at Krauthammer’s request, printed it today in a new White House blog post. He said he was sorry for the mistake and seemed to be suggesting regret for the tone of the accusation too.

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.

Pfeiffer should be commended for trying to recoup a little bit of lost classiness for the White House.

Nevertheless, it’s a little difficult to imagine that Obama couldn’t have kept the bust if he wanted it and didn’t in effect send it back. In fact, in 2009, a spokesman for the British embassy told The Telegraph that Obama “has decided not to continue this loan and the bust has now been returned.”

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12 Responses to Nicely Done, Dan: WH Sorry for Churchill Bust Error

  1. Obama came out of the gate a rank amateur and he and his classless wife
    have made us a laughing stock ever since day one. We all yes we hayseeds
    and feeble minded knew exactly what the Churchill debacle was little Barry’s first show of power what a brave boy. Pheiffer told the truth finally but a day late and a dollar short. Sorry I’m a lifelong Anglophile and have seen how
    much the British appreciate America’s role in WW1 and WW2. The chapel in
    St Paul’s with the stained glass window dedicated to all the states and a book
    with the names of all those American soldiers and airmen lost. The book is under glass and a page is turned daily. Think they would have sent any of that packing? Sorry for my rant.

  2. If there was ‘no intent to deceive’, why was there an obviously staged ‘photo-op’ of the two imbeciles, Cameron and Obama, baring their backsides to the camera as they appeared to be inspecting the sculpture?

    Krauthammer was a bit stunned at the apology – he is, after all, the first person ever to receive such a grandiose gesture. But is was the Brits themselves who first criticized Obama back in April 2009 for being so crass. The moral of the story – never, ever challenge Krauthammer! Rarely is he wrong.