the racie for gracie

Joe Lhota’s Art War Comes Back to Haunt Him

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota testifies during a Senate Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee hearing on
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images2012 Getty Images

In a Thursday election feature about Joe Lhota, the New York Times revisits one of the Giuliani administration’s most infamous clashes: the time it threatened to cut funding and evict the Brooklyn Museum over a controversial piece of art that incorporated elephant feces in a depiction of the Virgin Mary. Lhota, a deputy mayor at the time, led the city’s negotiations with the museum, which culminated in him standing outside a board meeting, promising not to deliver the city’s first $500,000 check of the year. Naturally, Lhota says his views on free expression have changed, and he wouldn’t oppose any art piece now. Still, he stands by his negotiating tactics, telling the Times that “he was looking for ‘leverage points to force the museum’s hand. ‘It was,’ he said, ‘as legitimate as any negotiation is.’ ” But as the Wall Street Journal reports, Lhota’s Republican rivals plan to punish him for Giuliani’s sins. And the Brooklyn Museum dung incident was a big one.