How a Reporter Discovered the Doctored Photo From the 2017 Women’s March

The National Archives had blurred protest signs critical of President Donald Trump.

Original photo of protesters at the 2017 Women's March. Mario Tama/Getty Images

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

If you had stepped into the National Archives in the past few weeks and entered an exhibit meant to honor women’s suffrage, you would have seen an iconic photograph of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, DC. But if you looked closer, you might have noticed that words on certain signs—like those critical of Donald Trump—were blurred out. Signs displaying the words “vagina” and “pussy” were also camouflaged.

At least that’s what Washington Post reporter Joe Heim realized. He tracked down the original image, taken by Getty Images photographer Mario Tama, and confirmed that the photo in the National Archives gallery had been doctored.

A day before activists kicked off a smaller Women’s March across the country, a spokesperson for the National Archives told the Washington Post that 2017 image was altered “so as not to engage in current political controversy.” In other words, the non-partisan federal agency wanted to keep depictions of fervid political outcry out of a historical portrait of activism. The National Archives soon apologized for altering the image and pledged to “replace it as soon as possible with one that uses the unaltered image.” 

The changes may have been overlooked if it had not been for Heim’s watchful eye. Here’s how he got the story:

 

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.