A mural outside Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C., has been painted over, taking with it images of comedian Bill Cosby and former President Barack Obama.
The co-owner of the iconic U Street eatery has said the decision to remove the mural had nothing to do with numerous allegations of sexual assault made against Mr. Cosby.
“The mural went up in 2012. It’s 2017. New mural, new year,” said Nizam Ali, the Washingtonian magazine reported. “It’s time to put something new up. It’s time to spring forth a good message of peace and unity.”
Mr. Cosby’s presence on the mural had sparked controversy among D.C. locals in the wake of the assault allegations, and on at least one occasion the painting was vandalized. In October 2015, a street artist calling himself Smearleader defaced the painting with an image of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and took credit for it via Instagram, NBC’s local affiliate reported.
“Kim’s Chili Bowl. Instead of looking at a sexual predator, people can celebrate in jubilation that the great leader is now on the their Wall. Eat s— Cosby,” read the Instagram posting.
The restaurant is taking a non-binding poll of customers on its website for who should be painted in a new mural. Survey respondents can select up to six individuals for the honor, and Mr. Cosby is on the list, as is former President Obama and Michelle Obama.
Ultimately, however, the mural’s composition is up to one woman: Virginia Ali, the widow of Ben’s Chili Bowl founder Ben Ali.
“It’s Mom’s wall. It’s Mom’s Chili Bowl,” Mr. Nizam Ali said, the Washingtonian. “She can put up whoever she wants to put up.”