Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Is the Smithsonian working with David Gergen?

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Update below.

Update, 1/21/11: From what appears to be David Gergen’s Twitter.

In the wake of the Smithsonian censorship affair, MAN has learned that the Smithsonian has engaged in conversations with former presidential adviser David Gergen. The Smithsonian refused to say if Gergen is currently working with the Smithsonian or if Gergen will be working with the Smithsonian going forward.

Gergen is the director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School for Government. He served as a presidential adviser during the Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton administrations. He is also an editor-at-large for US News & World Report and a political analyst for CNN.

“It was on an informal committee the regents pulled together, not paid,” Smithsonian spokesperson Linda St. Thomas told MAN. She did not specify the nature of the committee. I asked if Gergen would have a specific role with the regents in the wake of the recent Smithsonian difficulties and St. Thomas said that she did not know: “I just can’t go any further, nor do I know any more. I don’t think it was anything… I don’t think it was anything too dramatic. It was a meeting.”

Beyond confirming the Smithsonian’s dialogue with Gergen, the Smithsonian was unwilling to explain whether Gergen would be involved in the future with addressing issues related to secretary G. Wayne Clough’s censorship of an art exhibition. If the Smithsonian is working with an institutionalist ‘Washington wise-man’ such as Gergen it may be an indication that the Smithsonian realizes that the censorship affair is a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon.

St. Thomas said that board of regents chairperson Patty Stonesifer would address Gergen’s role or involvement on Jan. 31, when Stonesifer and Clough are scheduled to take questions from reporters after a board meeting in Washington. It is likely that Clough will be asked about Gergen today when he meets with the press after participating in a program at Town Hall Los Angeles.

I also asked the Smithsonian if Gergen was specifically working with or for the board of regents or if the secretary was also involved. “Of course Wayne was there,” St. Thomas said. “That’s it. We’ll see you on the 31st.”

UPDATE, 1.20.11, 640pm EST: Clough confirms MAN’s report to the Los Angeles Times, but won’t say much more. I wonder why the Smithsonian is being so secretive about this…

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  1. pensum says:

    Is this quote from the L.A. Times article true?

    “Neither Clough nor the congressmen had actually seen the 1987 video […] before the complaints were made and the decision came to take it down.”

    I mean seriously Clough himself didn’t actually look at the video before ordering it taken down? Is he really that much of an idiot? And if so how does someone like that obtain such a position? I am incredulous.

    ps. thanks, Tyler, for all the great reporting.

  2. […] Clough’s errors seriously. (And now we know what Gergen was doing for the Smithsonian, a relationship first reported here on MAN. Why was the Smithsonian so secretive about engaging him and near-panicky when it was discovered? […]

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