WASHINGTON (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is demanding answers from the National Archives in the wake of a scandal over politically motivated edits to a photo of the 2017 Women's March.
The rights group filed a Freedom of Information Act request Wednesday demanding all correspondence relating to the decision to censor elements of the photo, as well as any information on other photos at the National Archives that had been similarly altered.
The archives quickly apologized over the weekend when The Washington Post revealed that a large photo of the Women's March on display at the National Archives had several protest signs altered to blur out both President Donald Trump's name and references to female body parts.
“An apology alone is not enough,” said ACLU spokesman Abdullah Hasan. "The public needs to know more."
The organization is seeking clarity on how the decision was made and who was involved. The National Archives is an independent agency that is meant to be nonpartisan. The archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero, was appointed in 2009 by then-President Barack Obama.
The original posted apology from the archives began with the sentence “We made a mistake.” But the ACLU is rejecting that characterization.
“A mistake is tripping and spilling coffee on the photo. Blurring signs critical of Trump or referencing women’s bodies is a deliberate act,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling. “Doctoring the photo was nothing less than Orwellian. Instead of documenting history, the National Archives had altered history to mask criticism of the president and erase our bodies.”
The archives said the photo in question is not one of its archival records but rather was licensed for use as a promotional graphic in an exhibit on the women's suffrage movement. In announcing the reversal over the weekend, the statement from the National Archives said the institution will immediately begin a “thorough review” of its policies and procedures for exhibits “so that this does not happen again.”