House Republicans demanded answers from The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum after a group of children in pro-life hats were kicked out of the establishment in January.
The museum, home to such historical wonders as the Wright Flyer, the Hubble Space Telescope’s twin and thousands of other priceless artifacts, was quick to respond to inquiries into the incident. In a letter to House Republicans, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III called the expulsion of the students a “mistake” and claimed that all visitors are welcome regardless of their values or messages on their clothing.
“This was an aberration and not reflective of Smithsonian values and practice of welcoming all visitors regardless of viewpoint,” he explained. “Visitors are not to be denied access based on messages on their clothing, and an error was made in this regard on January 20, 2023.”
He assured the lawmakers that following the “error” all security personnel were given a training “refresher” on the museum’s policies.
“I have ensured that all security personnel working in Smithsonian museums were provided refresher training on this Smithsonian policy and appropriate procedures for welcoming visitors following demonstrations. Additionally, I have directed that security personnel be provided with refresher training before any scheduled demonstration to prevent this from happening again. Additional details are provided in the enclosed responses to the specific questions posed in your letter.”
While the museum stated that it does not allow demonstrations to take place in the building, demonstrators coming from outside protests and marches are always welcome to visit without exception.
“The Smithsonian has welcomed visitors from the March for Life for decades, as we welcome all visitors without regard to their beliefs,” the letter continued. “The January 20, 2023, occurrence at the National Air and Space Museum was limited in time and not reflective of the experience of March participants who visited other Smithsonian museums on that day or those who have visited in past years.”
“The Smithsonian does not permit demonstrations in the museums, and we also prohibit entry of placards, signs, and banners, regardless of viewpoint. But people who enter for the purpose of visiting Smithsonian museums should not be denied access based on the messages on their clothing.”
At the end of the letter, the secretary apologized for the incident.
“I am sending identical letters to each of your co-signers of the letter. The Smithsonian remains committed to welcoming all visitors to our museums regardless of their views, and we apologize that this incident occurred,” he concluded.
In a separate document regarding specific questions asked by House Republicans, the Smithsonian stated that they won’t release the names of the security staff involved with the error, nor would they receive any discipline.
“Please provide the names of the Smithsonian employees whose conduct is in question,” Republicans asked.
“The direction for visitors to remove pro-life hats was a mistake. Security staff were informed of the error and reminded of Smithsonian policy shortly afterwards so that such an incident will not recur,” responded the museum.
“We are not releasing the names of staff out of concern for their safety. Statements made on social media and in correspondence we have received have contained harassing and threatening language directed at them.”
“What disciplinary action has the Smithsonian taken regarding this incident? If no action has been taken, please provide delineate the course of action the Smithsonian plans to take regarding this incident,” read another question.
“The instruction to visitors to remove their pro-life hats was a mistake – a misinterpretation of what was permissible. It was not a willful violation. The Smithsonian has taken several steps to address this issue,” the response reads. “Following this incident, the Smithsonian reinforced the Smithsonian policy for visitors with security staff at the Air and Space Museum. Starting January 23, 2023, the Smithsonian also began a refresher training to security staff at all Smithsonian museums on applicable Smithsonian policy. If additional information stemming from our on-going review of this matter reveals that any Smithsonian employees engaged in misconduct on January 20, it will be addressed consistent with Smithsonian policies and procedures.”
Representative Chip Roy, R-Texas, appeared satisfied with the timely response the House Republicans received.
“The Smithsonian has publicly acknowledged its employees’ wrongdoing, instituted refresher training, and taken immediate corrective action to remedy the situation and claims it will not happen again,” he said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “Congress will need to continue proper oversight of the Smithsonian and ensure that all Americans are welcome at the Air and Space Museum.”
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