One of the most common criticisms of former President Donald Trump is his perception as a grifter. Whether he's stiffing contractors or promoting campaign contests with no apparent winner, the former president has demonstrated a laser-focus on generating as much money as possible for his coffers, with others bearing the expenses.
Such was the case for Trump's White House photographer, Shealah Craighead, according to a new report from Eric Lipton and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times.
In the final weeks of Trump's time in the White House, Craighead—who's known for her work with Republican presidents—alerted Trump's aides that she would be curating the photos she'd taken of Trump into a book, just as every White House photographer since the late President Ronald Reagan has done.
Initially, Trump's team demanded a portion of Craighead's advance in exchange for Trump to write a foreword, but they later told her to halt the plans.
Now, Trump is selling a book featuring Craighead's photos and those of other photographers, in some instances for more than $200 per copy, and pocketing the profits, and reportedly snagging a multimillion dollar advance.
Trump's former press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, told the Times:
“Shea’s a very talented photographer and this was really all of her hard work. 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.”
Because the photos were taken by an official White House photographer, they're considered public domain, so Trump's hijacking of Craighead's photos is technically legal, but morally loathsome.
For her part, Craighead—who has since shelved her book plans—declined to comment specifically about the matter, but did tell the Times:
“I stay apolitical as possible, as I am a neutral historical documentarian. By staying neutral I am able to remain a keen observer.”
Social media users were disgusted at Trump's latest grift.
But they weren't surprised.
John Bredar, an author with expertise on the history of White House photographers told the Times that the initial arrangement—Trump taking a cut of the Craighead's advance in exchange for promotion and a foreword—was also the first apparent instance of a former President seeking to make money from a White House photographer's planned book.