Washington, DC — Without notice or explanation, the National Park Service (NPS) has removed from public display the videotape containing footage of demonstrations and other events that took place at the Lincoln Memorial. The agency took down the video the day after Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) publicly released agency records showing that the Bush Administration has spent nearly $200,000 in an effort to edit out filmed scenes of gay rights and pro-choice demonstrations that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial.
The controversy surrounding the video has been building for more than a year. In November 2003, under pressure from Christian fundamentalist groups, the Bush Administration announced that it would alter the eight-minute video. These conservative groups complained approximately 30-second glimpses 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 video has been shown at the Lincoln Memorial since 1995.
“The Bush Administration is ideologically editing history to cater to religious groups,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization has also attacked the approved display of religious symbols and Bible verses in national parks as well as the Bush Administration sponsoring sale of creationist books giving a non-evolutionary explanation for the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders. “The Bush Administration is implementing a Faith-Based Parks agenda.”
The video consists of a montage of photos and films of events that have occurred at the Lincoln Memorial, including the 1939 Marian Anderson convert and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. NPS left the video player but the public can see only a blank screen in the Memorial’s visitor center. Despite repeated requests by PEER, the NPS did not offer a basis for the video’s removal.
PEER did obtain records, however, showing that two different 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 contentious events. Apparently, this new “balanced” video was not balanced enough for Bush officials because yet another version was commissioned that would make “three minor picture changes to the Lincoln’s Living Legacy Video.”
“Lincoln said ‘we cannot escape history’ but this Administration seems willing to give it a try,” Ruch added. “Darkening the Memorial’s visitor center diminishes the Park Service’s public education mission.”