Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley scorched the National Archives Sunday for blurring out messages critical of Donald Trump in a Women’s March photo — and suspected federal workers were “fearful” of a “vengeful” president.
A representative of the National Archives admitted Friday that officials had deliberately smudged the president’s name in anti-Trump protest signs in a photo of the 2017 march that was used in an exhibit to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. The Archives had also blurred out references to female anatomy. The institution apologized the following day and is replacing the photo with an accurate version.
Brinkley said he suspected self-censorship by worried federal workers at a time when Trump insists on changing reality to make himself look better.
“We are living in the age of Donald Trump. If you work in government, you’re very fearful of a vengeful Donald Trump. So it may very well be they just wanted to please him ... at all costs we can’t let Donald Trump see that we have a photograph in our display that says something negative about him,” Brinkley said.
“This is a president that we are dealing with that on his inauguration lied about his crowd size and blew up at the Interior Department because they weren’t showing a photo that he wanted,” Brinkley told Martin Savidge on CNN. “This idea of air-brushing anything negative about Donald Trump out of our current government institutions is starting to happen more and more. It’s all the reason why we have to say, ‘Knock it off’ ever louder.”
Brinkley said he “could not believe” the National Archives did something so “idiotic.” It’s “such a venerable institution; we all trust it. It’s the depository of our national heirlooms ... and here it is doctoring photos to make Donald Trump look good,” he added.
He called the massive gathering of women in Washington the day after the president’s inauguration “largely [an] anti-Trump march,” so the changes were a profound alteration.
The National Archives is reviewing how the controversial decision was reached to alter the photo.
Check out Brinkley’s comments in the video up top.
We made a mistake.— US National Archives (@USNatArchives) January 18, 2020
As the National Archives of the United States, we are and have always been completely committed to preserving our archival holdings, without alteration. pic.twitter.com/VTWOS4R7GY
We have removed the current display and will replace it as soon as possible with one that uses the unaltered image.— US National Archives (@USNatArchives) January 18, 2020
We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.