The Drapegate Scandal
Date Added: Nov. 21, 2003
An unfortunate side effect of media attention on the Bush Administration in the months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. is that they resurrected a scandalous design issue in the Hall of Justice. However, neither this open letter nor the situation it supposedly ridicules are completely legitimate.
This poem was written and read at the Santa Cruz Celebration of The Muse at Cabrillo College in 2002. The evening is a benefit for survivors of breast cancer.
AN OPEN LETTER TO JOHN ASCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES
On January 28, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft, announced that he spent $8000 of taxpayer's money for drapes to cover up the exposed breast of The Spirit of Justice, an 18ft aluminum statue of a woman that stands in the Hall of Justice.
John, John, John,
It's not that we aren't grateful
So, in your office every morning,
While you look at that breast John,
It's not the money it cost.
Claire's new book of poetry will be available at the end of the year If you are interested in ordering a copy, please notify her at: Clairebraz@mac.com
In the Great Hall of the U.S. Department of Justice stands a pair of statues named "Spirit of Justice" and the "Majesty of the Law." "Spirit" depicts a female figure, dressed in a toga, with arms raised and her right breast completely exposed.
The juxtaposition of the statue's partial nudity with conservative leaders has been a favorite visual for the media to exploit, going back to the Reagan administration, when photos of then-Attorney General Edwin Meese was captured during a press conference in front of the statue, ironically holding a copy of a report on pornography.
The theory that Ascroft ordered the statue concealed (or, at the very least, approved such a plan) originated with a January, 2002, ABC News report. Department of Justice spokespeople have firmly denied that the decision to erect the drape was motivated by the explicit nature of the statue, and insist it was not ordered by Ashcroft nor purchased with his knowledge or approval.
According to DoJ sources, the drape was first erected for President Bush's rededication of the Great Hall in honor of Robert F. Kennedy (Bush lead people requested a TV-friendly blue background be used in lieu of the hall's grey marble walls). Since Ashcroft planned to use the drape in the future, an AG staffer decided it would be cheaper to purchase the backdrop at $8,650 rather than continue to rent it at $2,000 a pop. She did so without Ashcroft's knowledge.
Many detractors claim these arguments are merely a smokescreen by the administration to conceal what they consider a prudish conservative censorship agenda. The "did-he-or-didn't-he" debate that has ensued has been dubbed by some as "Drapegate" or "Breastgate" will probably never be resolved.
The text in the chain letter above was written by poet and playwrite Claire Braz-Valentine in response to the early media reports that Ashcroft had ordered the drape because he did not want to be photographed in front of the partially nude statue. She recited it at the Celebration of the Muse in Santa Cruz. A fan transcribed it into an e-mail message and it began forwarding with gusto.
She has requested that it not be forwarded because it is copyrighted material and most e-mail versions vary significantly from her original (some even reformatted her poem so it would read more like a letter). You can listen to her recite the poem at her site, referenced below. Break this Chain.
References: Claire Braz-Valentine, Snopes.com