- The Washington Times - Friday, July 1, 2005

The National Park Service is revising the video shown to visitors at the Lincoln Memorial to be politically balanced, responding to complaints from conservatives who organized a campaign of petitions and e-mails demanding changes.

Park Service documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show officials have spent about $20,000 to purchase video of President Bush, pro-gun advocates and pro-Iraq war rallies and considered removing images of former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, at the memorial.

The conservative Web site CNSNews.com criticized the video in February, particularly a montage of marchers carrying signs that included, “The Lord is my Shepherd and Knows I am Gay,” “Ratify the ERA” and “Keep Abortion Legal.”

“The video gave the impression that Lincoln would have supported abortion and homosexuality,” said the Web site of the Rev. Louis Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition (www.traditionalvalues.org). “Absent from the video were any Promise Keepers marches or Marches for Jesus rallies at the capital. The video was totally skewed to present only a leftist viewpoint.”

Park Service officials said the new video is still being evaluated and refused to provide a copy of the revision to the Associated Press.

The current eight-minute video, which has been viewed by millions of visitors since 1994, was created by the Park Service in an unprecedented collaboration with high school students nationwide. It shows Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, presidential visits and glimpses of dozens of protest marches at the memorial on the Mall.

Students and teachers who collected money to pay for the project and worked with the Park Service a decade ago said they were surprised by the effort to give their display a more conservative touch.

“The Lincoln Memorial is America’s soapbox,” said Ilene M. Morgan of Los Angeles, who as a Scottsdale, Ariz., high school student helped organize the project. “This was where people have stood to get America’s attention. That’s what we were trying to capture.”

Documents about the revision were released to two liberal advocacy groups, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the People For the American Way Foundation, after they sued under the Freedom of Information Act. Major portions of the 1,500 pages, provided to AP by the groups, were blacked out on grounds that they included pre-decision information that did not have to be disclosed.

“This is yet another example of the Bush administration’s efforts to turn the federal government into a right-wing propaganda machine,” PFAW President Ralph G. Neas said. “Now they’re trying to rewrite history on the basis of ideology and abuse FOIA to conceal the evidence.”

Park Service Deputy Director Don Murphy disagreed, saying the service has a “responsibility to present a balanced approach. We do not respond solely to any special interest group.”

Mr. Sheldon said he complained to the White House and said in a broadcast transcript that was distributed among Park Service executives: “If Bush is in office, let’s have it our way. Let’s make it fair now.”

The agency said no one from the White House ever contacted the Park Service or Interior Department about the video.

But within weeks of the first conservative complaints, the Park Service’s Harpers Ferry, W.Va., interpretive design center was put to work on revisions.

In a Feb. 20, 2003, e-mail, Tim Radford, a Harpers Ferry Center employee, requested a search of video archives “for footage of conservative-‘right wing’ demonstrations (several lines blacked out) Lincoln Memorial. please ‘rush.’ ”

On March 5, 2003, Mr. Radford e-mailed his boss: “replacing clinton would require creating a totally new interpretive production. please remember many other presidents, republican and democrat, are shown.”

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