Joe Biden removes Churchill bust from Oval Office on first day as President
Joe Biden removed Donald Trump’s bust of Winston Churchill on his first day as President, replacing it with Cesar Chavez.
The US leader revealed his new decor after inviting the press to watch him sign a series of executive orders on Wednesday.
A bust of Churchill was first displayed in the Oval Office after Tony Blair loaned it to George W Bush in 2001.
It was sent back to the British embassy when Barack Obama took office in 2009, but Trump brought back a different version of the British Prime Minister in 2016.
Downing Street has denied any bad feeling over Biden’s decision. A spokesperson said: ‘The Oval Office is the President’s private office, and it’s up to the President to decorate it as he wishes.
‘We’re in no doubt of the importance President Biden places on the UK-US relationship. And the Prime Minister looks forward to having that close relationship with him.’
Obama’s removal of Churchill from the Oval Office prompted a debate over whether it was ‘snub to Britain’ – but it was later confirmed there was a second bust of the war leader in the White House residence outside his office.
Boris Johnson, who was Mayor of London at the time, wrote in The Sun: ‘Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.’
His comments led to accusations of racism, with Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames naming them ‘appalling’ and ‘totally wrong on almost everything’.
Obama said he loved Churchill but thought it right to have a bust of Luther King Jr in the Oval Office ‘to remind him of the people who helped get him there’.
He added: ’There are only so many tables where you can put busts otherwise it starts looking a little cluttered.’
Chavez – whose bust sits among pictures of Biden’s family – founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962, now known as the United Farm Workers.
He is best known for his efforts to gain better working conditions for thousands of workers who laboured for low wages and under severe conditions.
His wife accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom for him in 1994 after his death one year earlier.
New pictures show Biden has also chosen to have sculptures of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks in his office.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Franklin peers down from a portrait on a nearby wall. He has also replaced Trump’s light blue rug with a darker one.
Both Biden and Trump will use the Resolute Desk as it was built from oak used in the British Arctic exploration ship HMS Resolute.
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