The National Archives revealed this week that it altered a photo from the 2017 Women’s March to blur out signs that were critical of Donald Trump, a decision that is drawing criticism for the non-partisan agency.
As The Washington Post reported, the agency said it decided to digitally obscure signs held by marchers, including blotting out the name Trump from a sign that had read “God Hates Trump.” Another sign that read “Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women” was blurred out as well, the report noted.
The agency, which has a mission to preserve federal records, said the pictures were altered for an exhibit featuring the Women’s March. Miriam Kleiman, a spokeswoman for the National Archives, said that the signs were altered in order to “keep the focus on the records.” She added that the exhibit is shown to groups of students and young people, and that some of the removed words could be viewed as inappropriate. In addition to blurring signs critical of Trump, the agency also removed references to female anatomy, the report noted.
She added that the pictures were not considered part of the official record.
“We do not alter images or documents that are displayed as artifacts in exhibitions,” Kleiman added. “In this case, the image is part of a promotional display, not an artifact.”
Though the National Archives is not a government agency, its actions follow other incidents in which federal agencies were accused of falsifying records or hiding data that would have been critical of Trump. In September, after Trump doubled down on a debunked claim that Hurricane Dorian was potentially headed to Alabama, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly disavowed a tweet that came from National Weather Service’s Birmingham, Alabama office, which contradicted Trump’s statement.
The NOAA then claimed that Trump had been given information for days that showed Dorian could impact Alabama, though Trump made his claim after this time.
The National Archives came under criticism for its decision to alter the images. Speaking to The Washington Post, Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley said there was no reason to digitally alter a historic photograph, saying that the organization could have simply avoided using a picture if they did not want to use it. Brinkley said to use the photo in a way that confused the public was “reprehensible” and noted that “a lot of history is messy” but there was no reason the National Archives could not be upfront about the image.