White House Visitor Spray Paints The Blue Room
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 13) -- The Secret Service has arrested a woman for allegedly defacing two sculptures and a wall in the Blue Room of the White House.
The unidentified woman, described as between 30 and 35 years old, allegedly pulled out a can of spray paint during a public tour of the White House today. She was immediately taken into custody by the Secret Service.
Secret Service spokesman Arnette Heintz called the incident an "isolated case." Heintz said the woman will be charged with defacing government property and could face other charges.
A uniformed Secret Service agent in a room next to the Blue Room heard a spraying sound, entered the Blue room and aprehended the woman, according to Heintz.
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said the woman sprayed part of the room's wall and two sculptures, one of Christopher Columbus and the other of Amerigo Vespucci, with a "brown, rusty-colored paint."
McCurry categorized the statues as "priceless. They're two of the oldest sculptures in the residence." The two busts will be removed so that National Gallery can determine the extent of the physical damage.
The total damage done by the vandal was estimated by McCurry to be more than $1,000.
President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton have decided there would be no change in the policy toward public tours following today's event.
"This president and this first lady are committed to keeping the residence open to the American public. This is one of the only residences in the world that's open for public tour. And the Clintons think that's an important principle to maintain," McCurry said.
Heintz said the spray paint was in a "miniature touch-up size" can and the woman's bag would have had to go through an X-ray machine as she entered the White House grounds. Heintz wouldn't say if her bag underwent a hand search as well.
The Secret Service is conducting a standard investigation, including interviewing tourists who witnessed the incident.
McCurry said defacing of the White House and its contents has occurred in the past but not recently. McCurry said news organizations would not be allowed to get pictures of the damage so as not to encourage others to make similar attacks.