Justice Dept. Puts Statues Under Wraps

From Times Wire Services

It’s a Washington cover-up of a different sort.

The Justice Department has spent $8,000 on blue drapes to hide two giant partially nude statues in the Great Hall of the agency’s headquarters, spokesman Shane Hix said Monday.

Drapes were occasionally hung in front of the aluminum Art Deco statues before formal events “for aesthetics,” Hix said. The department used to rent the drapes, but has now purchased them and left them hanging.

The drapes provide a nice background for television cameras, Hix said. ABC News reported that Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, a religious and conservative man, ordered the statues covered because he didn’t like being photographed in front of them.


But Barbara Comstock, another spokesperson, said the decision was made by an Ashcroft aide. “He did not know this was being done,” Comstock said. “The attorney general has more important things to do than worry about what appears in pictures.”

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Ashcroft has been photographed several times in front of the statue of a woman that represents the Spirit of Justice. The 10- to 12-foot statue has its arms raised and a toga draped over its body, but a single breast is exposed.

The other statue, of a man with a cloth covering his midsection, is called the Majesty of Law. Both statues were installed in the 1930s when the building was finished, the Justice Department said.

The statues were hidden by rented curtains on Nov. 20, when President Bush came to the Justice Department to name the building after the assassinated former attorney general Robert F. Kennedy.

The Great Hall is an ornate, two-story room that the department uses for special ceremonies.