Forget that Mike Huckabee said President Obama grew up “in Kenya.” Forget that he later claimed he “simply misspoke” and “meant to say Indonesia.” Forget that that explanation makes even less sense given that Huckabee also talked about British imperialism and the Mau Mau rebellion. Forget all of that.
Let's talk about Winston Churchill.
Specifically, let's talk about a bust of Winston Churchill that, during the George W. Bush administration, sat in the Oval Office after it was lent to the former president by the British. At the end of Bush's second term (according to the White House curator) the bust was scheduled to be returned to the Brits, and now sits in the British ambassador's residence*. The British Embassy confirmed this, saying that it “was uniquely lent to a foreign head of state, President George W Bush.” Obama put in its place a bust of Abraham Lincoln, and the Oval Office still boasts some prominent items of British manufacture, including the presidential desk (made from the timbers of the HMS Resolute) and a wooden pen holder that sits atop it (made from the timbers of the HMS Gannet).
Admittedly, this is all very boring. But Mike Huckabee yesterday twisted the mundane tale of Winston Churchill's bust into something far more sinister:
HUCKABEE: I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits --
MALZBERG: Of Winston Churchill.
HUCKABEE: The bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.
As should be clear from the facts laid out above, this is completely inaccurate and makes absolutely no sense. It's an ugly smear, the intention of which is to portray the first black president as being motivated primarily be racial grievances. And, not surprisingly, it's wildly popular on the right, particularly with Huckabee's colleagues on Fox News.
Glenn Beck promoted the theory last June, saying: “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.”
Beck even went so far as to suggest that the anti-British anger Obama apparently carries in his genes is cause to question whether he can effectively serve as president: “I'm trying to understand what he is doing. Has he dealt with that with his grandfather? How has he dealt with that? Someone in the press needs to ask him these questions. Can he be an honest broker at the table with the nations who are our traditional biggest allies?”
But Beck's treatment of the Churchill bust was tame compared to that of Stuart Varney, who brought up the conspiratorial attack last month during Fox News' “straight news” programming and claimed that the White House had admitted that they returned the bust in order to avenge Obama's grandfather:
MEGYN KELLY: [T]he thing about the bust, has the White House ever spoken out publicly to actually explain why they sent that bust back?
VARNEY: It was apparently because President Obama's father, who was a native Kenyan--
KELLY: Have they admitted to that?
VARNEY: I believe that that is out there. I've not read the formal statement, but an explanation was requested and that was the explanation was that President Obama's father, being a native Kenyan, disliked the British colonial rule in Kenya that ended in 1963.
This is an ugly smear, a vicious attack premised solely on the happenstance of the president's ancestry. The fact that it has found willing spokesmen in national news figures (and a would-be presidential candidate) is nothing short of repugnant.
*UPDATE: An AP fact-check says the Churchill bust is actually in the White House residence.