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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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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