The Slatest

National Park Service Cropped Photos of Inauguration Crowd After Complaints From Trump and Spicer

Two photos from the same elevated perspective showing the National Mall
A side-by-side comparison of Reuters photos shows the crowds at Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017, on the left, and at Obama’s first inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009, on the right.
2017 photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters; 2009 photo by Stelios Varias/Reuters

The government’s efforts to appease the Trump White House’s concerns over the size of the inauguration crowd included cropping photos, the Guardian reported Thursday, citing government documents.

Following the publication of photos from media outlets that showed far more people attending Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration than Trump’s, the nascent administration sprang into action to find anything to show that the disparity was not as big as it seemed.

The Guardian cites records from an inspector general investigation showing that Trump had called acting director of the National Park Service Michael Reynolds the morning after the inauguration and that Sean Spicer, then the press secretary, “called NPS officials repeatedly that day in pursuit of the more flattering photographs.”

After those calls, the Guardian writes, Reynolds talked to a Park Service communications official who “got the impression that President Trump wanted to see pictures that appeared to depict more spectators in the crowd.” Spicer had asked another NPS official for photos that “accurately represented the inauguration crowd size,” an NPS official said in the inspector general’s report.

While no one from the White House specifically asked for photos that cropped out empty parts of the Mall to make the crowd appear larger, the NPS communications official got in touch with the photographer and asked, the photographer said, for “any photographs that showed the inauguration crowd sizes” and to “edit a few more,” according to the Guardian.

“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,” the report says, “He said he did so to show that there had been more of a crowd.” The inspector general’s report did not identify what photos were cropped or determine whether the cropped photos were ever publicly released.

After making several calls to the Park Service, Spicer would make his debut in front of the lectern in the White House briefing room. “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period,” he said.