Former President Donald Trump reportedly tried to muscle his way into the profits generated by a book of images taken by the official White House photographer during his tenure.
New York Times reports that Mr Trump tried to claim some of the profits from White House photographer Shealah Craighead’s book of images she captured during his time in office.
It is not unusual for a White House photographer to produce a book of images captured over the term of a president. In the past, some presidents – like Barack Obama and George W Bush – even offered to write forewords for such books.
However, Mr Trump, apparently seeing a chance for profit, asked for a cut of Ms Craighead’s book advance as a payment for a foreword. Those claims come from associates of Mr Trump speaking to the Times.
When that plan didn’t pan out, Mr Trump’s aides asked Ms Craighead to postpone releasing her book, which allowed Mr Trump to use the photos she took of him and those from other White House photographers and publish his own book. That book is currently selling for as much as $230 a copy.
Mr Trump’s 373-page take, called Our Journey Togetherdoes not include photo credits, or any mention of the photographers who took the photos until the final page, where an acknowledgment section cites “all the phenomenal White House photographers” who took the photos. Ms Craighead’s name appears among those listed in the acknowledgments .
The publishing company that released the book, Winning Team Publishing, was only incorporated in October and lists Donald Trump Jr and Republican campaign operative Sergio Gor as co-founders.
Former aides who worked for Mr Trump decried the former president allegedly undercutting the White House photographer.
“Shea’s a very talented photographer and this was really all of her hard work,” said Stephanie Grisham, Mr Trump’s former press secretary, told the paper. “I just keep thinking: What a shame that he is actually now profiting off of it. But then again, this is the guy who is hawking caps and all kinds of stuff right now to raise money for himself.”
The chief White House photographer during Mr Bush’s time in office, Eric Draper, called the move disrespectful.
“It’s a slap in the face,” Mr. Draper said. “I would be disappointed if I were in her shoes from her.”
A spokesman for Mr Trump, Taylor Budowich, did not deny that the former president was aware of the other book, but did not address claims that he stole her idea.
“President Trump has always had an eye for beautiful and engaging curation, which came alive through the pages of his book,” he said in a statement.
Ms Craighead has largely declined to comment on the issue, saying she wished to stay as “apolitical as possible” as she is a “neutral historical documentary”.
The former president broke no laws by swooping in and publishing a book before Ms Craighead, even though the book contains her work. Photos taken by White House staff are considered public domain under federal law.
He is, however, the first president to seemingly try to turn a profit by publishing a book of photos taken by White House staff photographers.
According to sources speaking with the Timesin addition to stealing her idea, Mr Trump was also reportedly unkind to the photographer as well.
Those sources claimed he occasionally said insulting things about Ms Craighead and complained about her skills as a photographer. He was also reportedly very particular about which photos he would allow to be released to the public. Former aides claim he would set aside specific times to review folders full of photos – which he demanded be printed so he could hold them rather than looking at digital copies – and pick the ones he wanted released.