Vandal Damages White House Art
Jan. 14, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A woman touring the White House sprayed brown paint in the Blue Room, defacing two historic sculptures, officials said.
The woman carried a 3-inch paint can in her purse that was seen by Secret Service agents, but not confiscated, said officials who declined to identify the woman or comment on a possible motive.
White House press secretary Mike McCurry said she caused more than $1,000 damage to the room's wall covering and marred two ``rather priceless'' marble busts of Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. The statues date to 1815 and are among the oldest sculptures in the White House collection.
McCurry refused to allow photographs of the damage, saying he did not want to encourage copycat vandals.
The woman was described as between 30 and 35 years of age.
She was on one of the White House's daily public tours just after noon when she took out the paint can and started sparying, said Secret Service spokesman Arnette Heintz. She was stopped by a nearby uniformed Secret Service officer and taken into custody.
The two busts will be removed for repair by a National Gallery conservator, but tours of the mansion _ which accommodates some 2 million tourists each year _ will not otherwise be affected.
Tourists and their handbags are screened by security agents before entering the White House gates. Heintz said agents detected the woman's paint can _ along with a similarly sized container of hairspray _ but did not confiscate it because ``a can of spray paint itself is not a security issue and there was nothing to indicate any kind of suspect behavior.''