It started with a lengthy story on the conservative site CNS.com and ended with a Smithsonian Institution museum removing a piece of video art depicting a crucified Jesus being swarmed by ants.
In between, though, the story blazed a fun path through the conservative noise machine, and into the mainstream media. The initial story described the entire exhibit in great detail:
"The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently showing an exhibition that features images of an ant-covered Jesus, male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show's catalog as 'homoerotic'".
After the initial story went live, the reporter who wrote it turned to House and Senate leaders of both parties to seek comment by email. That email, provided to me by a source, appears in full at the bottom of this post.
It reads in part: "The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian, is running an exhibition through the Christmas season that features an ant-covered Jesus and what the Smithsonian itself calls "homoerotic" art. Should this exhibition continue or be cancelled?"
The author -- Penny Starr -- did not return a request for comment.
Starr received responses soon thereafter from a spokesman for House Republican Leader John Boehner and from Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who demanded the exhibit be "pulled" and threatened the National Portrait Gallery's funding.
"This is an outrageous use of tax payer money and an obvious attempt to offend Christians during the Christmas season," said Cantor. "When a museum receives taxpayer money, the taxpayers have a right to expect that the museum will uphold common standards of decency. The museum should pull the exhibit and be prepared for serious questions come budget time."
From there the story became the subject of multiple segments on Fox News. "[Y]ou have the tax dollars funding this wonderful art display," snarked Glenn Beck.
It's Christmas at the Smithsonian. Here's this wonderful -- oh, look, it's Jesus with ants on him. They describe it as the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in making of modern American portraiture.
What? You got to be kidding me. What does this have to do with the birth of the baby Jesus and why is he now covered in ants? Whose values are these? And you wonder where there is a breakdown of the family.
The Smithsonian decided to pull the video, and thus the CNS story about the Smithsonian became mainstream news fodder.
And that's how the right-wing echo chamber works, folks!
I am asking the leadership in Congress to answer the following question as it relates to the current exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.
Here is the link to the story about the exhibit posted at our Web site:
My deadline for a response is 1 p.m. and we are posting a story at 1:30 p.m. that will contain the leaders' response or lack thereof.
Here is the question:
The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian, is running an exhibition through the Christmas season that features an ant-covered Jesus and what the Smithsonian itself calls "homoerotic" art. Should this exhibition continue or be cancelled?
Thanks in advance for your response.