WASHINGTON — Democratic Missouri Rep. Lacy Clay wants to file a theft charge with Capitol Hill Police against Republican California Rep. Duncan Hunter for removing a painting in the capitol that depicts police officers as pigs.
Clay told reporters Monday night that police spoke to his chief of staff earlier in the day and have not been helpful to the congressman in his quest to file charges against Hunter.
“I think he was way out of bounds and he broke the law. It’s called theft,” Clay said. “I don’t think anyone up here is qualified to be an art critic. I’m not and no other member is an art critic except one—Alma Adams of North Carolina.”
“They are trying to figure out what they are going to do. So you call the police and ask them what they’re going to do,” Clay said, who noted he was looking for Hunter on the House floor. “Sound like politics to me,” he later said about the police on the hill.
A source on the hill familiar with the matter claims that Clay “asked for law enforcement protection to be present when he puts the painting back up at 10 a.m. [Tuesday].”
However, Clay denied he asked law enforcement for protection when asked by The Daily Caller about it.
“Why would I ask for police protection? I’m from St. Louis. I don’t need police protection. I don’t’ need that. For what? I do what I need to do. I’m a member of Congress. So how dare you ask me that. Why do I need police protection?” Clay snapped back.
Clay first heard from his office that the painting — by David Pulphus, which won his district’s high school art competition and now hangs with other high school student paintings from members’ districts across the country — was removed by Hunter on Friday and returned to Clay’s office undamaged.
“We’re less than zero percent worried about this, because, one, it’s not theft when you take something off a wall, without damaging the property, in the Capitol Building and return it to its rightful owner on behalf of a student in any way what so ever,” a Hunter spokesman told TheDC.
“We conferred with counsel on this and their response to us was, ‘give us a break.’ The Capitol Hill Police will be responsible for investigating it. There’s nothing to investigate other than the fact that Hunter screwed it off the wall and returned it to its rightful owner for the purpose of ‘safekeeping.’”
Clay doesn’t know if the ethics committee “would even consider an ethics complaint. I want to file a criminal charge for theft. Look, this kid won a contest. His painting was placed there with the 400 others so why should he be singled out and taken down by a member.”
However, he would like to see other pieces removed from the Capitol that he finds offensive.
“There’s plenty of art work in this capitol that I find to be very offensive and we should remove it—like Jefferson Davis’ statue—like Robert E. Lee—two traitors who caused America 600,000 lives and they’re treasonous. They should be out of here or Nathan Forrest—the founder of the KKK. His ass shouldn’t be hanging around here,” he said.
Andy Maybo, president of the District of Columbia Fraternal Order of Police, found Clay’s desire for charges to be filed incredulous and pointed to a 2006 incident involving then Georgia Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who punched a Capitol Hill police officer at the time.
“Back when a member of Congress punched a police officer in the chest in the very building that this painting hangs, she was never charged with anything,” said Maybo. “I still support the actions of Congressman Hunter.”