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 White House on Saturday night released pictures of the president working at the hospital, where he remained for a second night after he and First Lady Melania Trump both tested positive for the coronavirus.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a senior aide, shared one the pictures on her Twitter page, adding: “Nothing can stop him from working for the American people. RELENTLESS!”
But Jon Ostrower, the editor-in-chief of an aviation publication, also took to Twitter to note that the data embedded in two pictures of the president—showing him working in different rooms—were taken just 10 minutes apart.
“The photos released by the WH tonight of the president working at Walter Reed were taken 10 minutes apart at 5:25:59 pm and 5:35:40 pm ET Saturday, according to the EXIF data embedded in both @AP wire postings that were shared by the White House this evening,” Ostrower wrote.
His tweet prompted many on Twitter to declare that the photos had been staged by the White House, with some eagled-eyed commenters noting that the president appeared to be signing his name in the middle of a blank piece of paper using his signature black Sharpie. Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.
Early Sunday morning, the word “staged” was trending on Twitter.
“Not a huge surprise that these photos are staged – and I’m amused by those pointing out that if you zoom in he’s just signing a blank sheet of paper – but it’s genuinely appalling that he still won’t wear a mask,” historian Alex von Tunzelmann tweeted. “I hope his vanity hasn’t caused the photographer to be infected.”
Chicago Tribune humor columnist Rex Huppke wrote: “They are so incredibly bad at everything they do. We knew these picture were staged. Now we REALLY know they were staged. It’s so damn embarrassing for our country.”
Some of the criticism was directed at Ivanka Trump. “Nothing can stop him from a staged photo op,” Lea Black wrote in response to the tweet the president’s daughter had posted.
“Oh honey. Everyone can tell this is a very sick man propped in a chair for the purpose of staged White House propaganda. Go hug your kids and get off twitter,” author Lynn Comella replied.
“You really want your sick dad getting putting on and taking off coats to take staged photo ops in different rooms when he should be, maybe, resting?” Randi Meyem Singer added. “Some daughter you are.”
In another tweet, Singer wrote: “Every goddamn thing he does is a staged photo op. This is North Korea sh*t.”
The pictures capped a day of contradictory messages about Trump’s health as he fights the virus that has infected more than seven million people in the U.S. and killed more than 200,000.
In a televised briefing on Saturday morning, Trump’s doctors gave a rosy assessment of his condition, saying he was “doing very well” and in “exceptionally good spirits.”
But shortly afterwards, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows painted a more somber picture, warning that the next two days will be “critical.”
“The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning, and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care,” Meadows told reporters, according to The New York Times. “We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”
The comments infuriated the president, people close to the situation told the newspaper.
Meadows later tried to walk back his comments, telling Reuters: “The president is doing very well. He is up and about and asking for documents to review.”
Trump took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to say he was “feeling well” and by the evening, had released a four-minute video on Twitter to reassure the country that he felt “much better now.”
Siting at a table wearing a shirt and suit jacket but no tie, Trump did, however, acknowledge that the coming days would be “the real test.”
“We’re working hard to get me all the way back,” he added. “I think I’ll be back soon, and I look forward to finishing up the campaign the way it was started and the way we’ve been doing.”
He added: “We’re gonna beat this coronavirus or whatever you want to call it and we’re gonna beat it soundly.”