The vice chairwoman of the Missouri Republican Party apologized Sunday for what she described as a “thoughtless act” that involved her writing on a business card atop a Thomas Hart Benton painting in the Missouri Statehouse.
Her act was caught in a photograph that the editor of the Gasconade County Republican took on Wednesday during the General Assembly’s one-day veto session. Editor and photojournalist Dave Marner posted the image on Facebook Friday where it became something of a social media sensation.
“I offer my sincere apology for my completely unplanned and thoughtless act,” Vice Chairwoman Valinda Freed wrote in a statement to The Buzz. “The Thomas Hart Benton mural, and all the magnificent artwork in the Capitol, are state and national treasures.”
That was the extent of her statement. She did not identify the man who stood next to her apparently doing the same thing.
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But her statement ended something of a mystery as to the identities of at least one of the scribblers.
Marner was working in the Capitol that day and shot the photograph. He said he spotted the two writing on the wall and that it was strange that they were using the painting as a backdrop for their writing.
“I wondered what they were doing,” he said. “I took about seven frames total. It was kind of bizarre.”
He lost track of the photos until a couple of days later when he was editing his work.
“This thing has just blown me away,” he said Sunday. “It’s just been a firestorm.”
Marner said the two were not writing on the surface of the painting, but on business cards they had placed on top of it. The incident occurred at a right-to-work rally that day that featured several Republican candidates for governor.
“I love those paintings,” said Marner, who’s visited the Capitol since the mid-1980s to cover stories.
Comments on Facebook were harsh.
“Unbelievable,” wrote Jim Woodwin on Marner’s page.
“Uneducated hoosiers,” added Mary Butkus.
“Wow,” wrote KC Frahm.
“OMG … OMG … I thought I had seen the height of stupidity up there in recent years but they just keep topping themselves,” wrote Rob Crouse, who once worked in the building.