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The Bust Of Winston Churchill Is Back In The Oval Office

The bust of the British leader was at the center of a nagging controversy during Obama's presidency after he placed a bust of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., in its stead.

Posted on January 20, 2017, at 9:20 p.m. ET

Tim Sloan / AFP / Getty Images

A bust of Winston Churchill, the center of an eight-year-long brouhaha, was returned to the Oval Office on the first day of Donald Trump's presidency.

The sculpture of the British leader had a place in the Oval Office since July 2001, when it was received by George W. Bush from the British ambassador.

But when Barack Obama took office in 2009, the first black president of the United States instead kept a bust of civil rights leader Martin Luther King., Jr., in its stead.


It is customary for new presidents to decorate the Oval Office to their liking, but removing Churchill's bust became a nagging controversy during Obama's presidency, resurfacing several times during his eight years in office.

Last year, then-London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote an op-ed suggesting Obama had removed the Churchill bust because he was "part-Kenyan" and therefore disliked the British Empire.

Obama addressed the issue for the first time when he visited London later that year, telling reporters, "I love Winston Churchill. I love the guy."

Obama went on to explain that, as the first African-American president in US history, he believed it would be appropriate for him to give a space in the Oval Office to recognize King, a civil rights icon.

Obama also joked that there were "only so many tables where you can put busts, otherwise it starts looking a little cluttered."

The bust of Churchill was instead placed just outside the Treaty Room, his personal office in the White House's residential area.

Still, the bust continued to be a point of contention, one that Trump addressed in his rallies, where he promised he would return Churchill to the Oval Office.

On Friday, he made good on his promise.

TRUMP IN THE OVAL OFFICE. photo by @justinsink

White House pool reporters noted the bust was back in the office and a picture posted during Trump's first day in office showed the bust on a table.

Now it appears that two identical busts will be on display at the White House.

Addressing the controversy in 2012, the White House explained that the bust that was given to Bush in 2001 was a replica of another Churchill bust that was given to Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s.

The one given to Bush had been a replica lent to the White House while the original one was "being worked on at the time."

When Obama took office in 2009, the one that was lent to Bush was then returned to the Brits "as is common practice at the end of every presidency."

The original one given to Johnson was placed outside the Treaty Room.

The White House also released a picture of Obama showing the bust to then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

White House

The British newspaper The Sun reported Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and advisor Steve Bannon asked the British Embassy in Washington, DC, to lend them the bust once again.

According to the The Sun, a spokesperson from the prime minister's office confirmed it would do so.

The Washington Post reported the other identical bust is still being kept outside the Treaty Room.

Thanks to White House Chief of Staff for this wonderful picture of the MLK bust in the oval

As for the Martin Luther King, Jr., bust, it appears to remain in the Oval Office.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.