News & Politics

Smear Leader Wants Ben’s Chili Bowl to Take Down Bill Cosby Mural

''Ben's cowered down to the situation,'' the street artist says.

Photo by Elvert Barnes / flickr cc.

On Monday, anonymous street artist Smear Leader confessed to vandalizing the Bill Cosby mural at Ben’s Chili Bowl with a Kim Jong-un sticker. The gesture was a form of protest: Though the relationship between Cosby and the restaurant has cooled recently, Ben’s has received a wave of criticism for refusing to take down its mural, even as allegations of sexual assault continue to mount against the comedian. (The owners of Ben’s Chili Bowl couldn’t be reached for comment.)

Not much is known about the artist who linked Cosby to Jong-un. A Daily Beast article from last month shed some light on his fetish with the North Korean dictator, while comparing him to another elusive street artist: Banksy. Over a series of brief emails with Washingtonian, Smear Leader discussed his creative intent behind defacing the mural—which has since been restored to its original state.

Why Kim Jong-un?

It’s a way to focus on what North Korea and their government is doing. They do have some very bad things going on there with labor camps, however the United States jails more people than anyone in the entire world. The goal of this project is to get people aware and look themselves as to what’s going on in North Korea not through the eyes of the western media.

Is your hope that by replacing the Cosby mural with Kim Jong-un’s face, Ben’s Chili Bowl will paint over the mural?

Yes, as they should.

Your Kim Jong-un stickers have appeared all over the city, some in random places and some in more political spots, like over a Redskins logo. Do you see yourself more as an artist or an activist?

I’m an artist first, always will be.

Why use the name Smear Leader and not reveal your true identity?

I like to keep it about the art. There’s something about that smiling dictator that makes everyone around here smile.

Was the purpose in defacing the Cosby mural to draw a parallel between Kim Jong-un and Cosby–or simply to cover up Cosby’s face?

It was a little bit of both. Kim Jong-un was our first choice since he is the focal point of Smear Leader. Due to face angle and measurements we even considered doing Edward Snowden. If your wife/girlfriend/date wanted to go out would you feel more comfortable going with Bill Cosby or Kim Jong-un?

Have you been in communication with Ben’s Chili Bowl’s owners?


Are you going to deface it again?

No, I don’t plan on adding the Leader’s face on there again or anyone’s face for that matter. It did get people talking again about taking Cosby down off of the mural which is a success, unfortunately Ben’s cowered down to the situation with the “no comment” route.

Any other locations in DC you’d like to deface with a Kim Jong Un sticker?

I don’t look at it as “defacing.” I see it as upgrading and spreading cheer of the Supreme Leader. There are a lot of great things about the North Korean people but unfortunately, they also endure hardships and resolutions on how to help better them are not talked about at all in the western media. All the people who are putting up stickers/posters are supporters of the Smear Leader but most importantly want a better life for all the Korean people. So what other areas would we like to upgrade in DC? You’ll have to wait and see.