WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. National Archives, home to foundational documents such as the Bill of Rights, apologized on Saturday for altering images critical of President Donald Trump at an exhibit on women’s fight for voting rights and said it had removed the display.
The entrance to the Washington exhibit had featured interlaced photographs of a 1913 women’s suffrage march and the Women’s March that took place on Jan. 21, 2017, each visible from a different angle. In the 2017 photograph, the word “Trump” had been blurred in at least two signs carried by demonstrators, including one that originally read “God Hates Trump.”
The word “vagina” and other anatomical references were also obscured.
“We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again,” the Archives said in statement.
The photo-editing was first reported by The Washington Post on Friday and witnessed by a Reuters reporter on Saturday at the same time as demonstrators attending this year’s Women’s March strolled through downtown Washington in the cold and drizzle.
The Post reported on Friday that the Archives had said in a statement last week that as a non-partisan agency it had altered the image “so as not to engage in current political controversy.”
Roughly an hour after Reuters witnessed the altered image, however, the Archives issued a public apology in which it said it had removed the display and would replace it as soon as possible with one that uses the unaltered image.
“We made a mistake. As the National Archives of the United States, we are and have always been completely committed to preserving our archival holdings, without alteration,” it said.
Along with its popular Washington museum which includes exhibits of founding documents, the agency preserves government records and oversees research centers and presidential libraries in dozens of locations across the United States.
“Public access to government records strengthens democracy by allowing Americans to claim their rights of citizenship, hold their government accountable, and understand their history,” its mission statement reads.
The altered 2017 image was easy to miss, visible only from the side of the display at an angle of around 45 degrees. From the front, only the 1913 suffrage march - part of the movement that led to women winning the vote in 1920 - was visible.
Trump has been criticized for his behavior toward women, including for taped comments that surfaced in 2016 in which he can be heard bragging about groping and having sex with women.
At the time, Trump dismissed the tape as locker room banter.
Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Michelle Price and Daniel Wallis