David Barton was joined today by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) to make patently false accusations about the Smithsonian and the recently censored Hide/Seek exhibit. Religious Right activists like Bill Donohue and Brent Bozell successfully pushed House Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor to threaten the Smithsonian’s funding over a video, A Fire in My Belly, which featured eleven seconds of a crucifix with ants on it. The video was about the struggle with AIDS, and it was far from the first time an artist used the image of Christ to display suffering and stigmatization. Ultimately, the Smithsonian censored the exhibit and pulled the video, but many right wing activists and Republican leaders want to strip the Smithsonian of its funding altogether and have the entire exhibit pulled.
Barton repeatedly falsely stated that Hide/Seek, which was about the struggle of gay and lesbian Americans, was actually a “Christmas exhibit” that was being paid for with tax dollars. However, Hide/Seek, which is in the National Portrait Gallery, is separate from the Smithsonian’s “Holidays on Display” exhibit, which is located in the National Museum of American History. Barton and his co-host Rick Green also wrongly maintained that the exhibit was “taxpayer funded,” even though Hide/Seek only used private funds and did not receive any taxpayer money.
Barton: If you go into the Smithsonian this year for Christmas, you’ll find that the display is what they call “homoerotic,” that is the title they give at the Smithsonian. And as you walk among, you get to see all these wonderful little pictures – and I’m not going to be real graphic, but I’m going to give you the tone of this – you take your family and you go through this nice little Christmas exhibit and, on look there, there’s a picture of two naked brothers kissing – what a wonderful Christmas … and there’s Ellen DeGeneres, except she’s grabbing her breast. And over here, look, there’s Jesus on the cross, except he’s covered with ants.
Green: This is not some private museum, this is the Smithsonian, paid for with tax dollars.
Barton: This is not a club that has a cover charge to it. This is the Smithsonian museum, this is their Christmas exhibit. Christmas exhibit!
Green: How demented do you have to be for this to be your Christmas exhibit? How messed up …
Barton: Hold on, you got the wrong pronoun in there: how demented do we have to be, because we’re the ones paying for this … we’re doing this guys, this is our Christmas exhibit that we have up at the nation’s capital right now with our money. You and I have been paying money all year long so that this could be up at the Smithsonian.
Later, Barton claimed that the Smithsonian must regret hosting the Hide/Seek exhibit just like Satan regretted the crucifixion of Jesus:
Green: These people that are making these decisions, David, have they been inside the Beltway for so long and in their protected government job, only running around with their fellow liberals for so long, that they’re that out of touch with the American people that they wouldn’t realize that this is going to be grossly offensive to most Americans?
Barton: Well, there’s two things going here – please tell me any homosexual-type activity that is not grossly offensive to most Americans, which is why they keep it out public view most times … so it’s the kind of thing where they know it’s offensive but then every once in a while they feel emboldened. as they do right now with what’s been in DC for the last four years. They feel that hey, you know, the nation’s finally caught up to us and then they do something stupid like this.
And I go back to Scripture where it says if Satan had known what would happen with crucifying Jesus, he never would have done it. It’s the kind of thing where they just miscalculate every once in a while, and I hope this is a miscalculation.
I love the fact that the new Speaker, [John] Boehner, jumped down their throats at the Smithsonian on this. He says, “You will get that out or you will not have funding, period.” They took it down within about 24 hours – they took part of it down, they still have a lot of it up. But they were showing videos – can’t even describe the videos – but this is part of the Christmas exhibit.
They still have the pictures up. Jesus is still up covered with ants on the cross, they still have all the sacrilegious stuff up, but they did take other stuff down. And they admitted that people coming through, virtually everybody was yelling at them for having it.
Of course, only one single person who actually saw the exhibit, which opened on October 30th, complained to the Smithsonian. The right wing activists and Republican leaders who demanded censorship admitted that they never visited the exhibit themselves, although A Fire in my Belly was censored following their outcry, despite Barton’s claim that “Jesus is still up covered with ants.”
Barton went on to compare the exhibit to child pornography and said he believes that the Smithsonian’s decision to host Hide/Seek was a result of the Obama Administration’s purported leniency to obscenity. Barton said that “since Obama has taken office and Holder as the Attorney General they have not prosecuted one obscenity case” since in their eyes “child pornography doesn’t exist” and “is fine.” But Barton’s allegation is completely untrue: Holder’s Department of Justice has been prosecuting such cases under Obama, and the National Law Journal reports that “in 2009, 20 defendants were charged with obscenity crimes.”