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Sunday 30 April 2017

Oval Office overhaul as bust of 'real ally' Churchill returned

President Trump welcomes reporters into the Oval Office for him to sign his first executive orders at the White House Picture: Reuters
President Trump welcomes reporters into the Oval Office for him to sign his first executive orders at the White House Picture: Reuters

Donald Trump has hailed Winston Churchill as a "real ally" after returning a bust of the wartime leader to the White House's Oval Office.

In a nod to the "special relationship", Mr Trump appeared to make good on an agreement to return the former British prime minister's likeness to the famous office.

Its renewed presence was noticed as Mr Trump signed his first orders as the 45th president of the United States.

But Mr Trump has dismissed allegations that he removed a bust of civil rights champion Martin Luther King Jr, which replaced that of Churchill during Barack Obama's presidency.

He told a press conference at the CIA headquarters in Virginia: "I would never do that, because I have great respect for Dr Martin Luther King - but this is how dishonest the media is."

He explained that a cameraman had blocked the bust of Dr King from view during the photocall.

The sculpture of Churchill's face is said to be a replica of one given to 1960s leader Lyndon B Johnson and first appeared during former president George W Bush's administration.

Empire

"He doesn't come from our country, but had a lot to do with it, helped us, a real ally," said Mr Trump.

Reports of Churchill's removal prompted protests from British figures including foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who in turn was criticised when he blamed the swap on Mr Obama's "ancestral dislike of the British empire".

Mr Obama explained at the time: "My predecessor had kept a Churchill bust in the Oval Office. There are only so many tables where you can put busts, otherwise it starts looking a little cluttered.

"I thought it was appropriate, and I suspect that most people in the United Kingdom might agree, that as the first African-American president, it might be appropriate to have a bust of Dr Martin Luther King in my office to remind me of all the hard work of a lot of people who would somehow allow me to have the privilege of holding this office."

After meeting Mr Trump in November, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he was "especially pleased at his very positive reaction to the idea that Sir Winston Churchill's bust should be put back".

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