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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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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