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Justice Ends Statue Coverup

The drapes are removed from two figures 3 1/2 years after ex-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft veiled them to avoid having a breast appear in photos.

June 25, 2005|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — With barely a word about it, on Friday workers at the Justice Department removed the blue drapes that had famously covered two scantily clad statues for the last 3 1/2 years.

"Spirit of Justice," with one breast exposed and her arms raised, and the bare-chested male "Majesty of Law" basked in the late afternoon light of Justice's ceremonial Great Hall.

The drapes, installed in 2002 at a cost of $8,000, allowed then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft to speak in the Great Hall without fear of a breast showing up behind him in television or newspaper pictures. They also provoked jokes about and criticism of the deeply religious Ashcroft.

The 12-foot-6 aluminum statues were installed shortly after the building opened in the 1930s.

With a change in leadership at Justice, Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales faced the question: Would they stay or would they go?

He regularly deflected the question, saying he had weightier issues before him.

Paul R. Corts, the assistant attorney general for administration, recommended that the drapes be removed, and Gonzales signed off on it, spokesman Kevin Madden said.

In the past, snagging a photo of the attorney general in front of the statues had been somewhat of a sport for photographers.

When former Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III released a report on pornography in the 1980s, photographers dived to the floor to capture the image of him raising the report in the air, with the partially nude female statue behind him.

The first attorney general to use the blue drapery was Republican Richard L. Thornburgh, attorney general under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He had the drapery put up only for a few occasions when he was appearing in the Great Hall, rather than permanently installed as it was under Ashcroft.

Most news conferences now are held in a state-of-the-art conference room, although the Great Hall still hosts speeches and other special events.

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