Photographer cropped inauguration photos to make crowd look larger after Trump intervention: report

Photographer cropped inauguration photos to make crowd look larger after Trump intervention: report

A National Parks Services (NPS) photographer cropped photos of President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE’s Inauguration Day crowd to make the audience appear larger following a personal intervention from the president, according to an investigation by The Guardian

Interior Department records obtained by the paper reveal that the president, upset by the photos showing a crowd smaller than that at former President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, requested a new set of photos that “accurately represented the inauguration crowd size.”

The photographer then cropped the photos “where the crowd ended.” 


The records obtained by The Guardian through a Freedom of Information Act request somewhat contradict an official Interior Department inspector general report about the NPS photographer’s behavior, which did not mention the photos being cropped. 

According to the documents, Trump had a phone call with acting NPS Director Michael Reynolds on Jan. 21, 2017, the morning after Inauguration Day. By that point, the side-by-side photographs showing the discrepancy in crowd size had made the rounds online and in the media.

Then-White House press secretary Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerSean Spicer applies to join White House Correspondents' Association GOP lawmakers are showing up more frequently on Newsmax Making America dull again MORE called a number of NPS officials throughout the day seeking additional photographs of the crowd. Spicer, who later held a press briefing where he falsely claimed the crowd was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration,” called Reynolds twice during the day.

One NPS communications official told investigators that Reynolds told her specifically that the president wanted photos from the inauguration and that “she got the impression that President Trump wanted to see pictures that appeared to depict more spectators in the crowd.” 

Another NPS official said that Spicer asked for photos that “accurately represented the inauguration crowd size.”

Both officials told investigators that they believed the administration was asking for photos that suggested a larger crowd size, though neither Spicer or Reynolds specifically asked for the photos to be cropped.

The Interior Department inspector general’s final report, which was prompted by a 2017 complaint, said that the photographer “selected a number of photos, based on his professional judgment, that concentrated on the area of the national mall where most of the crowd was standing." 

But the new documents show that he attempted to crop the photos “to show that there had been more of a crowd,” after an official asked for “any photographs that showed the inauguration crowd sizes” following the first day of controversy.

The NPS photographer, whose name is redacted in the report, said he filed 25 photos the day of the event and was told to go back and "edit a few more" to submit.

The debate over the crowd size quickly became a sticking point for the Trump administration and marked an early low point in the president's ongoing feud with the press.