The official Trump-inauguration photos were edited to make the crowd size look bigger, according to a new report.
After Donald Trump himself intervened just a day into his presidency, a government photographer cropped out the empty space where the crowd ended in some pictures of the inauguration, according to public documents obtained by The Guardian.
The president was apparently angered by a photo circulating on Twitter that showed his audience was smaller than the crowd Barack Obama drew in 2009. The photo comparison was shared by the official National Park Service Twitter account. A crowd scientist said the Trump inauguration drew roughly one-third the attendees at Obama’s.
Trump’s anger sent NPS staffers scrambling on Jan. 21, 2017, to meet his demands, following phone calls from both Trump and Spicer asking for better representation of the crowd’s size. It’s not clear whether the original photos were released publicly, or which photographs were edited.
The acting NPS director, Michael Reynolds, called an NPS communications official to say that Trump wanted different pictures from the inauguration. The communications official noted that the images released so far depicted “a lot of empty areas” and said she had the “impression that President Trump wanted to see pictures that appeared to depict more spectators in the crowd.” She added that she “assumed” the photos needed to be cropped, although Reynolds didn’t request that specifically. She contacted an NPS photographer, who later told investigators that he was asked for “any photographs that showed the inauguration crowd size.” He said he was asked to go back to his office and “edit a few more.”
“He said he edited the inauguration photographs to make them look more symmetrical by cropping out the sky and cropping out the bottom where the crowd ended,” investigators for the inspector general said, according to the documents obtained by the Guardian, adding, “He said he did so to show that there had been more of a crowd.”
In the administration’s first-ever press briefing following Trump’s inauguration, then-press secretary Sean Spicer angrily referenced blown-up crowd pictures on the screens behind him, claiming the event drew “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration — period” after members of the media reported otherwise.
Cover: Guests gather on the National Mall to witness Donald J. Trump be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on the West Front of the Capitol, January 20, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)