Smithsonian Is Ready to Cancel Enola Gay Exhibit, Lawmaker Says
Smithsonian Institution Secretary I. Michael Heyman has “personally” taken charge of the controversial Enola Gay exhibit and is reportedly ready to recommend its cancellation to the institution’s board of regents Monday.
“I’m led to believe by the secretary in phone conversations and a private meeting in my office Tuesday he’s ready to cancel the exhibit,” said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), a newly appointed regent. “Our board will ratify his decision or act on it.”
Cochran said Heyman is considering a drastically stripped-down version of the proposed 10,000-square-foot exhibit, which has drawn fierce criticism from veterans and members of Congress, among others. The smaller display would include just the forward fuselage of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, along with some pictures and information about the crew and its mission.
Heyman has come under intense political pressure to cancel the exhibit and to fire National Air and Space Museum Director Martin Harwit, whom critics blame for the escalating controversy over the exhibit scheduled to open in May.
The board is expected to discuss Harwit as well as the exhibit. Affecting the balance of power could be four new Republican regents appointed by their congressional leaders. Thursday, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) named Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.), a harsh critic of the Smithsonian’s handling of the Enola Gay exhibit, to be one of the new regents.
Meanwhile, fallout from the controversy is spreading. Fund raising for the institution’s sesquicentennial next year are suffering, sources within the Smithsonian said.
So far just one corporation has pledged the $10-million donation that fund-raisers are seeking, and then only on the condition of anonymity, sources said. This is despite the institution’s decision to allow corporations for the first time to use their own names and logos in advertising associated with the celebration.