Washington, DC — In order to edit out filmed scenes of gay and abortion rights demonstrations that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial, the Bush Administration has spent more than a year and nearly $200,000 making two new versions of a video, according to agency records released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
In November 2003, under pressure from conservative religious groups, the Park Service announced that it would alter an eight-minute video containing photos and footage of demonstrations and other events taking place at the Lincoln Memorial. These conservative groups complained that footage of gay rights, pro-choice and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations implied that “Lincoln would have supported homosexual and abortion ‘rights’ as well as feminism.” The Park Service promised to develop a “more balanced” version of the videotape that has been shown at the Lincoln Memorial since 1995.
Records obtained by PEER show that two versions of the video have been made and paid for. The first version is a wholly new video “to revise and update the Lincoln Memorial video [including] avid off-line and symphony picture editing, the acquisition and addition of commercial and public domain stock footage and specialized captioning.” This new video kept the disputed demonstration scenes but added new footage from other, less controversial events. Agency records indicate that this new “balanced” video had an “estimated completion date of December 16, 2003.” Park Service employees have informed PEER that the new video required, but failed to obtain, approval by Assistant Interior Secretary Craig Manson.
This June, a second version of the video was ordered. This second version would make “three minor picture changes to the Lincoln’s Living Legacy Video. This work includes purchasing new stock footage, edit, mastering and captions for the video.”
Altogether, records indicate, through early August 2004, that $126,630 had been spent on the video project and $64,694 remained in the “Available Balance to Spend” by the end of the federal fiscal year, September 30. Notwithstanding the time and expense, the Bush Administration refuses to release any version of the new video on the grounds that “it is still in development and has not been finalized,” according to the National Park Service response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by PEER.
“The Bush Administration is trying to erase feminists, war protestors and gays from American history,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization is calling on the Bush Administration to release the first version of the expanded “balanced” video for a public showing. “Taxpayers deserve to see what their money was used to produce.”
PEER has coupled the Lincoln Memorial flap with National Park Service’s approving the display of religious symbols and Bible verses, as well as the sale of creationist books giving a non-evolutionary explanation for the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders within national parks. “This is merely the latest episode in the Bush Administration’s Faith-Based Parks agenda.”