White House clarifies on Churchill bust

The Obama administration is backtracking its earlier claim that a bust of Winston Churchill was not removed from the White House.

Earlier Friday, a senior Obama aide refuted reports, fueled by a comment from Mitt Romney, that a bust of Winston Churchill was removed from the White House.

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In an official blog post, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said that contrary to claims, the bust is still in the White House.

Later in the day, Pfeiffer updated his post to reflect that there were two Churchill busts in the White House and one was removed when President Obama assumed the office.

He noted that the White House has had a Churchill bust since the '60s and, at the start of George W. Bush's administration, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair lent 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."

Pfeiffer added that "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. The original Churchill bust remained on display in the residence."

He did not say if the bust from Bush's Oval Office was returned to the British government. He did not give a location for it.

In his earlier post, Pfeiffer knocked reports the bust had been removed and added a photo of President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron, taken during the British leader's 2010 visit, looking at the bust to prove it's in the White House.

"This is 100 percent false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room," Pfeiffer wrote.

He wrote that "normally we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false," but noted the repeated reports that it was missing, including one by columnist Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post on Friday, prompted the posting.

"Hopefully this clears things up a bit and prevents folks from making this ridiculous claim again," Pfeiffer added.

While on his overseas trip in London, Romney vowed to return the bust to the White House.

"I'm looking forward to the bust of Winston Churchill being in the Oval Office again," the presumptive GOP nominee told people at a fundraiser Thursday night.

That remark revived reports Obama had sent the bust to the British Embassy.

The rumor Obama returned the bust to the British goes back to 2009 when he refurnished the Oval Office, leading to speculation in the British press that the "special" relationship between the United States and the U.K. was in trouble.

Pfieffer wrote in his update that "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 is completely false and an urban legend that continues to circulate to this day."

Romney had his own controversies during his London trip when he suggested the city wasn't ready to host the Olympic Games. Cameron was critical of that remark, taking a swipe at Romney. The presumptive GOP nominee later said he was "convinced" they were prepared.

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Image courtesy of the White House.

— This story was originally posted at 2:45 p.m. and last updated at 5:31 p.m.