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Liberal Group Hits GOP Leaders For Smithsonian Censorship

National Portrait Gallery

The courtyard at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

People for the American Way is helping to keep alive the Smithsonian Institution art controversy, at least for one more day.

The liberal group criticized House Republican leaders for censorship by calling for the removal of a controversial video that showed ants crawling over a crucifix and the Smithsonian for caving under pressure.

The video was heatedly criticized by Bill Donohue who heads the Catholic League.

On Tuesday, House Speaker-in waiting Rep. John Boehner (OH) and House Majority Whip-to be Rep. Eric Cantor (VA) called for the Smithsonian to remove the exhibit and raised the threat of uncomfortable oversight hearings after they take control of the House in January.

The National Portrait Gallery exhibit called Hide/Seek included a video by artist David Wojnarowicz who died of AIDS in 1992. The video showed ants crawling on a crucifix and was said to be a commentary on the AIDS epidemic.

According to a story in The Hill, Cantor said the exhibit was meant as a Christmas provocation against Christians.

The #2 Republican in the House also took issue with the timing of the exhibit, which he labeled "an obvious attempt to offend Christians during the Christmas season."

In a statement; Michael Keegan, PFAW's president, said:

“There is absolutely no reason for our government to be in the business of censoring art, or cave to pressure from extreme Religious Right organizations just because it’s Christmas. That Bill Donohue and the Catholic League are fighting for censorship is unsurprising. That the GOP leadership is echoing their call is shameful. That the Smithsonian has given into their transparent political bullying is deeply disturbing.

“The United States, like other free nations, has a long history of supporting and embracing art by those of many different values and viewpoints. The Smithsonian museums host art that expresses strong religious devotion and art that expresses atheism and doubt. The museums house art from around the world, from every religion, and allow Americans to make their own decisions about what they like and what they don’t. These museums are an educational resource for the American people, not a political mouthpiece for the majority opinion.

“The new GOP leadership wants a government that stays out of people’s lives when it comes to health care and unemployment benefits, but they show no scruples about using government power to censor the free expression of those they disagree with. The American people must stand up to this blatant attempt to force politics into art and religion into politics.”

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