President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis came as a shock to our country and raised many questions about his ability to run the country. Trump shocked us all again by appearing to be strong and able to do the country’s business from the presidential suite at Walter Reed hospital.
But when the White House released photos showing President Trump doing the business of the American people from Walter Reed Medical Center, it prompted a conspiracy theory that images showing Trump working were staged propaganda. Reporter Andrew Feinberg posted the photo of Trump working and claimed that Trump wasn’t actually working, but had actually signed a blank sheet of paper. Feinberg shared a zoomed and cropped version of the photo which certainly did make it look like Trump was signing a blank sheet of paper.
This conspiracy theory quickly spread and was even reported on by Newsweek, which claimed, “President Donald Trump was seen in a photo taken at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center apparently signing a blank piece of paper with a marker, further undermining the credibility of the White House when it comes to the president’s health.” The Independent wrote, “The Trump administration’s credibility crisis continues as the president is mocked for apparently signing a blank piece of paper with a marker in photos taken at Walter Reed military hospital, in a vain attempt to show him working while fighting coronavirus.” Other reports claiming Trump signed a blank sheet of paper appeared in The Daily Mail, TMZ, Vox, Business Insider, Deadline, and many others.
Even ABC News reported on it, saying that after zooming in on the photo, they “confirmed it appeared to be a blank white sheet of paper,” and that the word “staged” quickly trended on Twitter.
Yet, when photos of Joe Biden signing executive orders on his first day in office similarly appeared to show him signing blank sheets of paper, the media quickly came to his defense, and the AFP issued a fact-check in response to social media posts alleging Biden had signed blank executive orders. None of the aforementioned media outlets reported on the conspiracy theory the way they had when Trump was president.
There are some key differences in these situations. The photos of Trump were released by the White House, and there were only a few that were released. The photos of Biden came from the media, and there were a lot more of them. In some of them the text of the executive orders can be seen, albeit lightly without enhancement.
Still, the hypocrisy of these two incidents is impossible to ignore. Last year it was the media who helped perpetuate the conspiracy theory that Trump had been staging photos of himself working at Walter Reed and signing blank pages. The allegations that Trump was signing blank pages were just as silly as the claims that Biden was signing blank executive orders, but the media rushed to perpetuate the narrative Trump was engaging in propaganda, while a similar accusation against Biden was rightfully fact-checked. But the media never fact-checked the claim that Trump was signing blank pages to stage photos of him working while being treated for COVID-19. The only fact-check I can find via Google is my own when I demonstrated how lighting and camera focus can make certain details, like small text, disappear–as was the case with Trump, and was the case with Biden.
Matt Margolis is the author of Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump, and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook, Parler, Gab, MeWe, Heroes, Rumble, and CloutHub.