ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports: With Chinese President Hu Jintao in Washington this week for a state visit, one US senator is raising an uproar over the Smithsonian Museum selling products made in China, such as miniature sculptures of presidents.
The gift shop at the National Museum of American History – located right on the Mall in the nation’s capital – sells various miniature statues of presidents past and present, from George Washington to Barack Obama, that were manufactured in China.
“It appears that a museum owned by the people of the United States, celebrating the history of the United States, cannot find companies in this country employing American workers that are able to manufacture statues of our founding fathers, or our current president,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, said in a letter to the museum.
“That is pretty pathetic!” he exclaimed. “I was not aware that the collapse of our manufacturing base had gone that far.”
“As a nation,” he said, “we have all got to be aware that one of the major reasons that the unemployment rate in this country is so high is because it is increasingly difficult to find products in our nation’s stores that are manufactured in this country. Our national museum should do its best to be a model in helping us address that crisis situation.”
Sanders posted pictures of the statues on his website at http://sanders.senate.gov/statues.html.
In response to the senator’s letter, a museum spokesman acknowledged receiving it and told the lawmaker’s office that a fuller response would be forthcoming.
The museum has yet to reply to messages left by ABC News.
UPDATE at 4p:
Brent Glass, the director of the National Museum of American History, called ABC News today to explain their stance on the made-in-China products.
“We do whenever possible try to buy from US-made manufacturers and we contract primarily with companies that are based in the US. We have more than 400 vendors just at our museum that are American that we work with. And our buyers only attend American trade shows,” Glass said. “But a lot of distributors carry products made domestically and internationally. We try to offer items to the public that are affordable and many of those products come from other countries, not only China.”