White House, Georgetown Say Covering Over Name of Jesus Was Unintended Consequence of Desire to Have Backdrop for Flags

April 16, 2009 - 6:09 PM
The White House and Georgetown say the covering over of "IHS"—a symbol for the name of Jesus—at the back of the stage where Obama spoke Tuesday was the unintended consequence of the desire to have flags behind the president.

President Obama speaking at Gaston Hall at Georgetown on April 14 with the

(CNSNews.com) - A White House spokesman and an associate vice president of Georgetown University said on Thursday that covering over of the monogram “IHS”—a symbol for the name of Jesus—inscribed on a pediment at the back of the stage where President Obama spoke on Tuesday was the unintended consequence of the White House’s desire to have a backdrop of flags behind the president.
 
In a written statement to CNSNews.com on Wednesday, Georgetown Associate Vice President Julie Green Bataille had said that the “IHS” symbol was covered over when “Georgetown honored the White House staff’s request to cover all of the Georgetown University signage and symbols behind the Gaston Hall stage.”

Photo of Gaston Hall stage that shows symbol

She also said in her Wednesday statement: “The White House wanted a simple backdrop of flags and pipe and drape for the speech, consistent with what they’ve done for other policy speeches. Frankly, the pipe and drape wasn’t high enough by itself to fully cover the IHS and cross above the GU seal and it seemed most respectful to have them covered so as not to be seen out of context.”
 
CNSNews.com attempted to get a comment from the White House Wednesday about the covering up of the “IHS” symbol, but the White House did not respond. CNSNews.com then posted the story on Wednesday evening, and on Thursday morning it was prominently linked at the top of the Drudge Report.

President Obama is greeted by Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia as he arrives to deliver remarks on the economy, April 14, 2009, at Georgetown University. Georgetown had covered the symbol

Also on Thursday morning, David Brody of CBN reported that he had received a statement from the White House on the topic. The entire statement said: “The President appreciated the gracious hosts at Georgetown University where he delivered his speech on the state of the economy. Decisions made about the backdrop for the speech were made to have a consistent background of American flags, which is standard for many presidential events. Any suggestions to the contrary are simply false.”

Gaston Hall stage as it looked on the afternoon of April 15 with

CNSNews.com contacted Georgetown University to ask if it stood by its statement that it had “honored the White House staff’s request to cover all of the Georgetown University signage and symbols behind the Gaston Hall stage.” Simultaneously, CNSNews.com contacted the White House, again, to ask if it denied that White House staff had asked Georgetown “to cover all of the Georgetown University signage and symbols behind Gaston Hall stage” as Georgetown had said in its written statement.
 

Pediment in Gaston Hall with

White House Spokesman Shin Inouye responded by providing CNSNews.com with a verbatim version of the statement that David Brody had posted on CBN. Inouye would not respond for the record to any follow-up questions.
 
Georgetown Associate Vice President Bataille spoke to CNSNews.com by phone. She said she did not think there was any contradiction between her statement of Wednesday saying that the White House had asked Georgetown to cover all signs and symbols at the back of the Gaston Hall stage and the White House’s statement of Thursday saying that it had asked for a background of American flags. She indicated that Georgetown had covered the symbols in order to provide a backdrop that was consistent with what the White House had requested.

Photo of Gaston Hall stage that shows symbol

“The White House asked for the backdrop of American flags,” said Bataille. “In order to provide that, that meant that the backdrop of Gaston Hall had to be covered. Yes.”
 
“In order to provide a neutral backdrop with American flags, something had to be put in front of the flags so that you could see them,” said Bataille.
 
“We were pleased to host President Obama and make this a successful event for everyone, and I’m glad that’s what was able to happen,” said Bataille.
 
Bataille’s comments were in response to CNSNews.com’s question of whether she stuck by her Wednesday statement saying that the White House suggested that GU cover all signs and symbols.
 
If left uncovered, the IHS monogram, which has been exposed during other speeches given in the hall by public figures, would have stood directly above and behind the President and above the blue drape that served as the backdrop for the flags. As such, it would have appeared in pictures of Obama at the podium.