Accuracy in Media

Mainstream media got a laugh at President Donald Trump’s expense on Thursday when it emerged the president had spoken at a Turning Point USA event with a doctored presidential seal behind him.

The seal displayed on a screen behind the president as he delivered an 80-minute speech to the student activists who form the heart of Turning Point USA was altered in several ways. Instead of one eagle, it had two – a symbol of the Russian coat of arms. Instead of arrows in its left talons, the eagle is holding a golf clubs. And instead of an olive branch being held by the right talons, the two-headed eagle is holding cash – a knock on Trump’s wealth.

In addition, where the seal says “E Pluribus Unum” – from many, one – the altered seal read, “45 es un titere,” Spanish for “45 is a puppet,” and the shield on bird’s chest has hammer-and-sickle symbols on it.

Turning Point USA announced that the display of the symbol was an accident caused by an aide rushing to assemble the elements for the presentation and inadvertently choosing the wrong seal. The aide has been dismissed, the organization confirmed.

The Hill and the New York Times tracked down the man who created the altered seal and were quick to point out he was a “46-year-old graphic designer who crafted the image after becoming disenchanted by Trump and the GOP.

They and the Washington Post quoted the designer, Charles Leazott, a “former Republican who voted for President George W. Bush twice,” as saying this “is the most petty piece of art I’ve ever created.”

The Hill’s story, “Man behind fake presidential seal is former Republican who opposes Trump,” by Justin Wise, also included his quote: “I’ve got to be honest, I am so tickled in the most petty way possible that the president of the United States, who I despise, stood up and gave a talk in front of this graphic. Whoever put that up is my absolute hero.”

The Washington Post took advantage of what it saw as an opportunity to knock the White House advance operation in its story, “How Trump ended up in front of a presidential seal doctored to include a Russian symbol,” by Michael Brice-Saddler and Reis Thebault.

It turned to Richard Painter, a former aide to President George W. Bush, who told the Post “the president’s staff should typically have advance knowledge and command over images and video displayed at events where the president appears.”

The Post reporters wrote that Painter “called the incident ‘careless.’

“’You should have control over what the private group is doing, what they’re putting on the screen and anything else,’” Painter said. “’To let someone project something on the screen that isn’t controlled by the White House is pretty stupid.’”

With no evidence – and, in fact, with spokesmen for the White House and Turning Point USA both insisting otherwise – the Post wrote that Painter said: “The projection appeared to be a practical joke – but one likely to embarrass a particularly image-conscious president.”

It does not say why Trump is any more “image-conscious” than any other president or offer any proof of this claim.

It then quoted him saying, “Someone is going to be getting in trouble, but they got one heck of a good laugh out of it.”

It then took care to note “The set of clubs in the eagle’s claw are probably a tribute to Trump’s well-documented golfing habit. The Post previously reported that by October of last year, the president had visited his golf course in Virginia more than 40 times and spent all or part of more than 70 days at his golf club in Bedminister, N.J.”

It then claimed, based on an analysis from Huffington Post, that Trump’s golf habit had cost taxpayers $102 million in travel and security expenses.

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