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Bush portrait label assailed

January 12, 2009 | 10:48 am


The National Portrait Gallery in Washington last month unveiled its newest acquisition -- Robert Anderson's official portrait of President Bush, seated by a vase of white lilies, which traditionally symbolize purity. And at least one U.S. senator is unhappy about the way the painting has been installed in the museum's galleries.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has written to the gallery's director, Martin E. Sullivan, to complain about the wall text that accompanies the picture, according to the political website Talking Points Memo. The painting's label says the 43rd president's administration was marked by "the attacks on September 11, 2001, that led to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq." Sanders is demanding a correction:

"When President Bush and Vice President Cheney misled our country into the war in Iraq, they certainly cited the attacks on September 11, along with the equally specious claim that Iraq possessed vast arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. The notion, however, that 9/11 and Iraq were linked, or that one "led to" the other, has been widely and authoritatively debunked. ... Might I suggest that a reconsideration of the explanatory text next to the portrait of President Bush is in order."

A spokesman at the National Portrait Gallery told me that a response to Sanders is being prepared and that the museum is "planning to make a change" in the text accompanying the painting. When the museum sends it, I'll let you know what it says.

UPDATE: The National Portrait Gallery has agreed to change the label.

--Christopher Knight

Photo: Laura Bush, Robert Anderson and President Bush at the Dec. 19 portrait unveiling. Credit: Associated Press