Metro-East News

Speaker Ryan says painting by St. Louis-area student should be removed

From staff and wire reports

The controversial painting titled “Untitled #1” by David Pulphus, who won an art contest sponsored by Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis.
The controversial painting titled “Untitled #1” by David Pulphus, who won an art contest sponsored by Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis.

The tug-of-war over a St. Louis-area student’s painting that depicts a police officer as a pig continued Thursday in Washington.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he wants the painting taken down, according to a report Thursday by Roll Call.

“This is disgusting, and it’s not befitting the Capitol,” Ryan said on a radio show Thursday. He added that “this isn’t a question of First Amendment rights.”

Rep. William Lacy Clay, a St. Louis Democrat, sponsored the painting and has been fighting with Republicans on whether it should continue to hang in the tunnel between the Cannon House Office Building and the Capitol.

Republicans have taken the painting down multiple times in the past week, and Clay has put it back up each time.

Clay sent a letter on Wednesday to Ryan, asking that the painting be kept in the student art competition.

Clay, in the letter, said he’s concerned the speaker will follow up on “vigilante censorship” in the House by removing the painting that’s at the center of a dispute about its appropriateness to be displayed on Capitol Hill.

Clay added that removal of the painting, after hanging six months without controversy, “would be a naked and unprecedented act of censorship and thought control” that would lead to litigation.

The painting won a student arts competition in Clay’s district and depicts a scene involving police officers pointing their guns at an African-American man. One of the officers resembles a pig, with an elongated face and tusks. Some GOP lawmakers and police groups say it’s offensive.

Republicans say the painting violates rules of the competition, which prohibit “exhibits depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature.”

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