Obama's grandfather + Churchill bust = Wacky Beck conspiracy

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

It's no secret that Glenn Beck is unwilling to accept a simple, boring set of facts when there's a crazed conspiracy theory about progressives that he can run with instead. Today, Beck took this tendency to new heights of stupidity.

You see, Beck is still pissed that President Obama, back when he assumed the office, supposedly returned a bust of Winston Churchill that the British had given President Bush. It's been bothering him for more than a year, but he hasn't been able to figure out just why it happened. But today, a miracle occurred, when one of Beck's listeners called into his radio show and explained to Beck What Really Happened.

It turns out that Obama harbors a secret hatred for the British because his paternal grandfather was tortured by British soldiers during the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya in the 1950s. And wouldn't you know it, the media is conspiring to hide this from us!

Oh boy.

As I've pointed out before, when making extraordinary claims, it is important to have extraordinary evidence. Beck, on the other hand, provides only unsubstantiated conjecture.



First of all, Obama never met his paternal grandfather, and met his father only once, when the president was ten. The idea that Obama's grandfather's torture 60 years ago would have triggered a deep-seated hatred of the British just doesn't make a lot of sense.

Second, Beck's evidence that Obama hates Britain is mind-numbingly weak -- all he points to is that Obama supposedly returned the Churchill bust after he became president. If Obama really hated Great Britain, shouldn't he be, I don't know, declaring war on them or something? What's more, Obama reportedly keeps on his desk a wooden penholder given to him by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; the penholder is "crafted from wood taken from the HMS Gannet, the sister ship to the Resolute, a British naval vessel whose wood was used to make the presidential desk."

Third, Beck's sole piece of evidence that Obama hates Britain doesn't add up: Both the British Embassy and the White House have said that the Churchill bust had not been a gift, but rather a loan that expired with Bush's presidency.

But hey, why admit the facts when there's a lunatic conspiracy to be had?

Beck provided the following explanation for how he had come to this conclusion:

BECK: Do you remember when we gave the big statue back, the bust of Churchill? Right after Obama got. In it didn't make sense to me, hasn't made sense to me. Any clues, any clues why this gift from the English after 9/11 was boxed up and sent back? I haven't figured out a reason. Why does Obama harbor animosity towards the British? I don't know. Why would he return the bust? A listener called me this morning. Said he had found information about Barack Obama's grandfather in an old Irish newspaper but couldn't verify it. I said okay, what is it? We looked into it. The information, took us about 20 minutes to find. It was out there, but until today I never heard about this information, and I'm kind of in the Barack Obama business, you know what I mean? I don't think you have. Maybe you have. What puts you in a position to act unexplainably in weird ways toward the ally? Something must have happened in your life and maybe this is a part of it.

Beck went on to detail an article in the British press reporting on Obama's step-grandmother's statements that her husband had been tortured by British troops. Beck said that he didn't know "if this plays a role in Barack Obama's life," before saying that the removal of the statue "sure makes sense" given this information, and adding that if it had been his grandfather who had been tortured, "I certainly wouldn't want someone like me dealing with longtime allies in a complex world stage."

Beck went on (of course) to assail the media for not having "followed up on this."

Beck's theory dissolves, of course, since his premise - that Obama returned the "gift" the U.S. received from the British - has long since been undermined. The original U.K. Telegraph article detailing the return of the statue made clear that the British embassy said it had only been "uniquely lent to a foreign head of state, President George W Bush," not given in perpetuity to the U.S. government:

A British Embassy spokesman said: "The bust of Sir Winston Churchill by Sir Jacob Epstein was uniquely lent to a foreign head of state, President George W Bush, from the Government Art Collection in the wake of 9/11 as a signal of the strong transatlantic relationship.

"It was lent for the first term of office of President Bush. When the President was elected for his second and final term, the loan was extended until January 2009.

"The new President has decided not to continue this loan and the bust has now been returned. It is on display at the Ambassador's Residence."

Likewise, the White House has stated that the Churchill bust had been scheduled for return to Great Britain prior to Obama's presidency:

Some Britons took offense when Winston Churchill's bust was replaced with King's. But the decision to return the Churchill bust to the British - it had been presented by former Prime Minister Tony Blair to Bush on loan - had been made before Obama even arrived.

"It was already scheduled to go back," [White House curator William] Allman said.

A bust of Abraham Lincoln currently rests where the Churchill bust once did; a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. was added to the Oval Office in February 2009.

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