The Slatest

National Archives Blurs Anti-Trump Messages in Women’s March Photo

Demonstrators protest during the Women's March along Pennsylvania Avenue January 21, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
Demonstrators protest during the Women’s March along Pennsylvania Avenue on January 21, 2017 in Washington, D.C. JOSHUA LOTT/Getty Images

The National Archives admitted that it altered a photograph of the 2017 Women’s March by blurring some signs held by protesters that were critical of President Donald Trump. The Archives also blurred some signs held by protesters that made specific references to women’s anatomy, reports the Washington Post.

The image in question is a huge 49-by-69-inch photograph that greets visitors to an exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and shows the massive crowds that filled the streets of Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, a day after Trump’s inauguration. But looking at the reproduction of the photograph taken by Mario Tama for Getty Images reveals that references to Trump and parts of women’s anatomy, such as “vagina” and “pussy,” were blurred out from signs held by protesters.

In one instance, a sign that reads “God Hates Trump” has the word “Trump” blurred out. The word “Trump” is also blurred out of a sign that reads “Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women.” In another instance, the word “vagina” has been blurred from a sign that reads, “If my vagina could shoot bullets, it’d be less REGULATED” while the word “pussy” has been removed from a sign that reads, “This Pussy Grabs Back.”

The Archives admitted that it edited the photograph. “As a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the President’s name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy,” Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman said in an emailed statement to the Post. And the move to remove references to women’s genitals had to do with the groups of students and young people that visit the exhibit. The Archives was sure to note that David Ferriero, the archivist who was appointed by then-President Barack Obama in 2009, supported the decision.

On Saturday afternoon, the National Archives apologized and said it has removed the photograph from the exhibit. “We were wrong to alter the image,” the National Archives said on Twitter. “We have removed the current display and will replace it as soon as possible with one that uses the unaltered image.” The National Archives also said it will review its procedures to make sure “this does not happen again.”

Experts were furious at the decision to alter the photograph, with some saying that it’s particularly galling that the Archives thought it would be OK to change an image regarding women’s rights. “Doctoring a commemorative photograph buys right into the notion that it’s okay to silence women’s voice and actions,” Wendy Kline, a history professor at Purdue University, said. “It is literally erasing something that was accurately captured on camera. That’s an attempt to erase a powerful message.” Historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University said that “there’s no reason for the National Archives to ever digitally alter a historic photograph.” If for some reason an image is deemed inappropriate it simply shouldn’t be used rather than edited, he said.

The story immediately sparked controversy on Twitter, with many likening the blurring of a photograph to what would be seen under an authoritarian government.

*This post has been updated with new information since it was first published.