President Barack Obama finally addressed an issue that has hung over the “special relationship” between the U.S. and the United Kingdom for almost eight years — the removal of a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office.
Shortly after Obama took office he chose to remove from the White House a bronze bust of Britain’s wartime leader placed there by his predecessor George W. Bush. At the time, some in the British media treated it as a diplomatic snub and prima facie evidence of cooling relations with the U.S. The removal briefly resurfaced in the 2012 election after Mitt Romney’s ill-fated trip to Britain.
At a press conference during a visit to the U.K. on Friday, Obama confirmed that he had in fact removed the bust from the office to make way for one of Martin Luther King. “There’s only so many busts you can have before it starts looking a little cluttered in there,” he said.
But the President said the White House does still feature a separate bust of Churchill outside the Treaty Room on its second floor. “I see it every day, including on weekends when I’m going into that office to watch a basketball game,” he said. “The primary image I see is a bust of Winston Churchill. It’s there voluntarily because I can do anything on the second floor.”
And, with remarks that will surely warm the hearts of British diplomats in Washington, he added: “I love Winston Churchill. I love the guy.”