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

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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:

 

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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