Trump Reportedly Requested Official Photos of His Inauguration Have 'Empty Areas' Cropped Out
According to a report from The Guardian, President Trump asked a photographer to crop photos of his inauguration crowd so it looked bigger
A photographer employed by the U.S. government allegedly edited — at President Donald Trump‘s request — official inauguration photos so the number of attendees would appear greater, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
According to documents obtained by the outlet — investigative reports compiled by the inspector general of the Department of the Interior — the president, 72, was allegedly displeased that his crowd appeared smaller than the one at former President Barack Obama‘s 2009 inauguration.
The documents outline that Trump and then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer both called the National Park Service the morning after the former’s Jan. 20, 2017 swearing-in to request more flattering photos, the Guardian said. Trump allegedly spoke with the acting NPS director at the time, Michael Reynolds, and multiple officials reported being called by Spicer.
The report also referred to an unnamed NPS official who allegedly spoke with Reynolds after his call with Trump and “got the impression that President Trump wanted to see pictures that appeared to depict more spectators in the crowd.” She said she “assumed” the photos “needed to be cropped” because they showed “a lot of empty areas,” the Guardian reported.
According to the outlet, the NPS official then got in touch with the photographer who covered the inauguration.
The White House did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
The investigation also includes the unnamed NPS photographer’s point of view. He said an NPS official asked him for “any photographs that showed the inauguration crowd sizes” and that he was asked to “edit a few more” despite having already filed 25 photos, the Guardian reported. He reportedly told investigators that he cropped out the sky and “the bottom where the crowd ended” to make the images “look more symmetrical” and “to show that there had been more of a crowd.”
While the photographer stated that he had not be “specifically asked” to crop the photos, he believed that’s what the official “had wanted him to do.” According to the outlet, he added that “he 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.”
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The records didn’t clarify which photos were edited and if they were shared with the public, the Guardian reported.
The NPS did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
The inspector general first investigated the NPS’s “questionable actions” during the 2017 inauguration in a report published in June that year. But it did not address the editing because the photographer told the inspector general that cropping is “standard artistic practice,” a spokesperson told the Guardian.
In a statement provided to PEOPLE, the inspector general of the Department of the Interior said, “As indicated in the Investigative Activity Report (IRA) that was recently reported on, the photographer said he ‘edited… by cropping’ several photographs. We did not provide the additional detail about ‘cropping’ because he explained to our investigator that it is his standard artistic practice to crop crowd photos in this manner.”
Continued the statement, “He further stated that he was not directed to crop the photos by anyone. Thus, his actions did not support any of the allegations.”
Speaking at CIA headquarters the day after the inauguration, Trump blasted the media for allegedly understating the size of his inaugural crowds.
“We had a massive field of people, you saw that. Packed,” Trump said. “I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks and they show … an empty field. I said, wait a minute, I made a speech! I looked out, the field was … it looked like a million, a million-and-a-half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there.”
Trump also tweeted a photo showing large crowds swarming the National Mall. However, the date on the image is written as they day after Trump’s swearing in.
Soon after the swearing-in, Spicer also disputed reports on the inauguration crowd sizes, accusing the media of “deliberately” deflating the number of people in attendance — and later drew harsh criticism for his own claim that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.”
During the press conference, Spicer made misstatements regarding D.C. Metro ridership on Trump’s Inauguration Day, citing figures that contradicted those reported by the D.C. metro authority itself and insisting that Metro ridership was higher for Trump’s inauguration than for former President Obama’s.
The Washington-area transit authority reported that 193,000 people rode the Metro on the morning of Trump’s inauguration, significantly fewer than the past two inaugurations and slightly fewer than President George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2005.