‘Holiday trees’ nothing new at the Rhode Island Statehouse

Governor Chafee issued a statement on Tuesday morning saying the decision to call the Statehouse’s yuletide greenery “a holiday tree” is not a change of policy or a bow to political correctness on his part. And there’s plenty of evidence to back him up.

Here, for example, is the invitation Governor Carcieri sent out in 2009:

Here’s the press release sent out in 2006 by Carcieri’s office (thanks to Bill Dennen on Twitter):

Governor Donald L. Carcieri and First Lady Suzanne Carcieri will host the annual tree-lighting ceremony at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, December 1, 2006. For the first time in many years, the ceremony will feature a large tree outdoors – on the south or city side of the State House – as well as a large tree in the building’s rotunda. The public is invited to attend the outdoor ceremonies beginning at 5:00 p.m.

There will be a total of 8 natural trees lighted for the holidays, plus an artificial tree in the State Room as well as a display of traditional December decorations of other countries around the rotunda.

Here’s the press release sent out in 1995 by Channel 10’s Jim Taricani, who was then the press secretary to Gov. Lincoln Amond, Carcieri’s predecessor and fellow Republican – Jim doesn’t mention Christmas at all:

Although RI.gov has delated all of former Governor Carcieri’s press releases (whose awful idea was that?), a quick Google search offers up some further evidence of “holiday trees” in Rhode Island.

Governing magazine, Dec. 21, 2006:

The “holiday tree” phenomenon is but one example of why the difference between “Christmas” and “holiday” governors is pretty blurry. For example, Carcieri never calls his trees “Christmas trees,” but does mention Santa and Hyde’s Christmas Tree Farm. Connecticut’s Jodi Rell hosted a “Holiday Open House” that included Christmas trees.

Projo, Dec. 1, 2008:

Governor Carcieri and his wife, Sue, will host the official holiday tree lighting ceremony in the rotunda on Friday, Dec. 5, at 6 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

WPRI.com, Nov. 24, 2009:

This year’s annual State House holiday tree lighting will be held on Friday, December 4th at 5:30 p.m.

Governor Donald Carcieri and Mrs. Carcieri will be hosting the event which is held in the Rotunda of the State House.

That said, Carcieri’s former press secretary, Amy Kempe, said on Twitter she thinks she sent press releases “using the word ‘Christmas’ in relation to the big fir tree that adorns the rotunda,” so it’s possible a “Christmas tree” release from Carcieri just hasn’t turned up yet. Leave your “Christmas tree” evidence in comments or email me.

Update: Here’s an example of Carcieri’s office using the word “Christmas tree” internally – a letter from his aide Deborah Smith to artists asking them to submit ornaments (though she also says they’ll be part of “the Annual State House Holiday Program”):

Update #2: Here are a few examples for the prosecution.

First, Carcieri using “Christmas tree” in his 2007 press release, as captured by HighBeam Research:

Governor Donald L. Carcieri and Mrs. Carcieri will light the State House Christmas trees at the annual holiday event on Friday evening, December 7, at 6:00 p.m. The public is invited to gather at 5:30 p.m.

Here’s an AP story from Dec. 5, 2008:

Governor Carcieri and his wife will light the state’s official Christmas Tree under the Statehouse rotunda.

The 20-foot Douglas Fir was cut down in Tiverton and will be illuminated during a ceremony Friday inside the capitol building starting at 5:30 p.m. Displays depicting international holiday customs have been set up on the building’s second floor.

And Carcieri’s 2010 press release mentions “Christmas tree,” but not in reference to the state’s fir:

Governor Donald L. Carcieri and First Lady Suzanne Carcieri extend a warm invitation to all Rhode Islanders to celebrate the holidays with the annual tree-lighting ceremony at the State House on Friday, December 10th. The 18-foot Douglas Fir, from Pachet Brook Farm in Tiverton, stands in the State House rotunda and is decorated with gold ribbons and features golden quahog shell ornaments and white lights. …

The celebration also includes craft tables where children can create ornaments to hang on their own Christmas Tree.

The State House Tree Lighting is funded entirely by donations. Donors include Webster Bank, Fidelity Investments, Citizens Bank, National Grid, and Pot Au Feu.

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