As Donald Trump addressed a rightwing crowd in Washington on Tuesday, the audience roared in support – but it was a doctored onscreen display that ultimately took center stage.
At a student summit hosted by the conservative group Turning Point USA, the president stood before what looks, to the casual observer, very much like the US presidential seal. A thorough examination by the Washington Post, however, reveals some odd tweaks to the image.
First, the eagle has not one but two heads – making it look a lot like Russia’s coat of arms. And instead of holding arrows, as the bird does in the US seal, it’s holding golf clubs.
In other words, a proud presidential symbol was apparently reworked to shame Trump over two of the biggest targets of anti-Trump criticism – Russian involvement in the 2016 election and excessive golfing – and it was displayed behind the president for all to see.
How this happened remains a mystery. The Post spoke with a White House representative who said officials hadn’t seen the image in advance. A spokesperson for Turning Point USA, meanwhile, told the paper he was stumped as to the origins of the image, characterizing it as “a last-minute A/V mistake”. “I can’t figure out who did it yet,” the spokesman said, adding that he didn’t know where the image had come from.
Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer under George W Bush, said Trump aides should have kept a closer eye on things. “Someone is going to be getting in trouble,” he told the Post, “but they got one heck of a good laugh out of it.”