A government photographer edited pictures from President Donald Trump’s inauguration to make the crowd size appear larger than it actually was after the president requested it, according to records obtained by The Guardian.
After repeated requests from the White House for new pictures, the photographer cropped the areas where there were no people to make it appear that the crowd filled the frame, according to The Guardian. The request came after Trump — on his first day in office — saw comparisons of his inauguration crowd compared to former President Barack Obama and became fixated on the size of the group.
According to The Guardian, there was an early morning phone call between Trump and then-acting National Park Service Director Michael Reynolds. White House press secretary Sean Spicer also dispatched repeated calls to NPS in an attempt to get a different set of photos. The call to Reynolds in search of more flattering photos and the new set was reported shortly after the inauguration in 2017 by The Washington Post. However, the documents obtained by The Guardianand reported Thursday provide new insight into how the new set of photos came out.
While no one said they were ordered to crop photos, accounts from multiple people involved in the day seemed to say that they assumed the new photographs needed to be edited.
According to The Guardian, a park service communications official told investigators that Reynolds called her and ordered up more photographs. She said “she got the impression that President Trump wanted to see pictures that appeared to depict more spectators in the crowd” because the images already released showed “a lot of empty areas.”
The official told investigators she “assumed” that meant the photographs needed to be cropped in order to show fuller crowd sizes, but that it wasn’t an official request, according to The Guardian. Another official had a similar account after a call from Spicer.
The photographer told investigators that he was told to “edit a few more” photos of the day. He said that he assumed he was supposed to crop the photos but that it wasn’t an official order. He told investigators he cropped out the sky and the bottom of the photos “where the crowd ended.” According to The Guardian’s documents, investigators said the photographer did so “to show that there had been more of a crowd.”
The NPS employees names were redacted in the report, according to The Guardian.
After new photos were sent to the White House, Spicer gave the infamous press conference falsely claiming to reporters that it was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.”
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