01/19/2011 10:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough Defends Decision To Remove David Wojnarowicz's "Fire In My Belly"

On Tuesday, Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough defended his decision to remove David Wojnarowicz's controversial video Fire In My Belly. The video, which includes scenes of an ant-covered Jesus, was part of the National Portrait Gallery's Hide/Seek, the institution's first major exhibition exploring gay themes.

Although the video outraged GOP Leader Congressman John Boehner, the resulting censorship was decried by art lovers. The film was hailed by the Catholic League as sacrilegious, but many Christians have also spoken out against its removal.

In his first public statement since the debacle began, Clough insisted he acted to preserve the rest of the exhibition. Clough argued,

I still believe it was a right decision and I'm still proud that the exhibit is still up and thousands of people are coming and learning what we hoped they would learn from it.

He cited "very difficult budget situations" with Congress as part of the decision and he expects the controversy to be part of the budget discussions.

Clough mentioned his struggle over the decision, noting

it was a difficult position for me personally because I have been a supporter of free speech everywhere I've gone, as well as gay rights, and to be perceived in some other light is a painful experience for me.

More painful experiences await Clough on Thursday in Los Angeles where he will be met with protesters before he speaks at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel.