WASHINGTON -- With barely a word about it, workers at the Justice Department Friday
removed the blue drapes that have famously covered two scantily clad statues for
the past 3 1/2 years.
Spirit of Justice, with her 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-Attorney General
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-inch aluminum statues were installed shortly after the building
opened in the 1930s.
With a change in leadership at Justice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faced
the question: Would they stay or would they go?
He regularly deflected the question, saying he had weightier issues before
Paul R. Corts, the assistant attorney general for administration, recommended
the drapes be removed and Gonzales signed off on it, spokesman Kevin Madden
said, while refusing to allow The Associated Press to photograph the statues
In the past, snagging a photo of the attorney general in front of the statues
has been somewhat of a sport for photographers.
When former Attorney General Edwin Meese 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 Thornburgh,
attorney general under Presidents Ronald 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.