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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 13:37 GMT
Curtains for semi-nude justice statue
Attorney General John Ashcroft in front of the 'Spirit of Justice'
No longer will the 'Spirit of Justice' bare her breast
No longer will US Attorney General John Ashcroft appear in public with a semi-nude statue towering above him.

The US Justice Department has spent $8,000 on curtains to hide the statue from the cameras.

The female, art-deco "Spirit of Justice" statue, with one breast exposed, is located on the podium in the department's ornate Great Hall where news conferences are often held.

Attorney General John Ashcroft
Mr Ashcroft 'knew nothing' of the decision
One fully-exposed breast protrudes from her toga garment.

Her male counterpart, the "Majesty of Law", is sculpted with a cloth strategically placed around his waist.

Photographers have gone to great lengths in the past to capture the scantily-clad female statue in the background as the Justice Department's top brass addressed the world's press.

Mr Ashcroft has been photographed speaking in front of her several times since the 11 September attacks.

Hired drapes have previously hung in front of both statues for formal events, such as President George W Bush's visit to name the building after assassinated former attorney-general, Robert Kennedy.

Visual harmony

This was done for "aesthetic" reasons, according to Justice Department spokesman Shane Hix, who said the drapes provided a pleasant background for television cameras.

But on Monday the department announced that it had taken a "cost effective" decision to buy the curtains, which cost around $2,000 to hire.

ABC News reported that the decision was taken at the request of the conservative Mr Ashcroft himself.

But Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock said Mr Ashcroft knew nothing of the investment.

"He has more important things to worry about than what appears in the pictures," she said.

The drapes are reported to have been hanging since Monday, drawing to a close the sport of photographers who infamously sprawled on the floor to snap the former Attorney General Edwin Meese holding aloft his report on pornography in front of the female statue.

See also:

16 Jan 01 | Americas
Profile: John Ashcroft
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