President Donald Trump’s social media accounts are filled with vile racism, idiotic xenophobia, and inaccurate statistics. And now we can add another category to the list: fake photos.
In recent months, Trump’s official Facebook and Instagram accounts have published photos of the president that have been manipulated to make him look thinner. If it only happened once you might be able to chalk it up as an accident. But Gizmodo has discovered at least three different retouched photos on President Trump’s social media pages that have been published since October of 2018.
The image below, published on the official Donald J. Trump Facebook page on January 17 and on his Instagram account over the weekend, has been altered to make the president look more fit.
The photo looks pretty normal at first glance. But once you compare it to the original, which is available on the White House’s Flickr page, you can see what was changed.
The original photo was taken by a White House photographer on January 14, so you know that the original hasn’t been altered by anyone in the so-called “fake news media” to make Trump look heavier. It sounds silly to even have to say that, but many Trump supporters believe that the media is involved in a coordinated conspiracy against him. Allegations about this conspiracy often have anti-semitic overtones.
As you can see in the comparison above, Trump’s right shoulder has been slimmed down and his face is looking thinner. He’s also gotten a haircut—well, a digital one anyway—and in one of the strangest alterations, Trump’s fingers have been made slightly longer. Seriously.
Donald Trump, an unindicted co-conspirator whose own lawyer admits that the president was trying to secure a real estate deal in Russia as late as November of 2016, has been somewhat sensitive about the size of his hands ever since journalist Graydon Carter described Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian.” Carter was writing for the now-defunct Spy magazine in the 1980s when he made the observation and the insult has reportedly bothered Trump for decades. Carter claims that the president has even sent photos of his hands to Carter with the fingers circled in gold Sharpie.
“To this day, I receive the occasional envelope from Trump,” Carter wrote in 2015, before Trump won the presidency. “There is always a photo of him—generally a tear sheet from a magazine. On all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers. I almost feel sorry for the poor fellow because, to me, the fingers still look abnormally stubby.”
Just keep your eye on the finger to see how it “grows” for Trump’s social media pages:
The photo was presumably altered with something like Facetune or Photoshop, but we can only speculate about the exact tool that was used. President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign manager Brad Parscale did not respond to Gizmodo’s multiple requests for comment over the weekend. Parscale has gotten credit for helping Trump seize power in the U.S. through his successful use of Facebook ads, but he’s never talked about digitally altering the way that the president looks.
Facetune is wildly popular with Instagram celebrities and is used to make enhancements to photos. The app can smooth out skin, make someone thinner, or even make people appear more muscular. The app was first released in 2013 but its popularity really skyrocketed with the release of Facetune 2 in November of 2016. Facetune has consistently topped the charts ever since.
But it’s not just that one photo that was altered and posted to social media. There’s also this graphic, published on Trump’s official Facebook page on October 3, 2018 when the stock market was doing really well. If you think Trump’s face looks a little weird, you’re not alone.
The original photo is from then-candidate Trump’s trip to Scotland in June of 2016 and was taken by Jeff J. Mitchell. You can see the unedited picture on Getty Images.
Trump is wearing a white “Make America Great Again,” and can be seen pointing at something in the distance. One thing is clear from looking at President Trump’s social media accounts: he really loves pointing.
As you can see, the original photo has been edited for Facebook in a number of ways. President Trump’s jacket has been digitally cut down to be smaller underneath his right arm and the shoulder pad in his suit has been smoothed out.
And yet again, the altered photo appears to make Trump’s finger slightly longer. The GIF we’ve made below can help show what’s been changed, including yet another minor digital trim that removes a few stray hairs.
Not all of the changes that have been made to Trump’s photos are obvious. Some of the alterations that I stumbled upon while looking through Trump’s Facebook and Instagram photos actually surprised me, mostly because they were so minor.
For example, I noticed that some elements in the background of one photo from Trump’s Instagram had been removed, so I loaded it up on my computer to make a GIF as an example of an innocuous edit. But it was only after I had placed the photos on top of each other that I realized this one was also edited to make President Trump look thinner.
Have a look for yourself. This photo, published on Trump’s official Facebook page on January 18, looks normal enough. But when I saw that the presidential seal is missing from the back of the Air Force One plane door I searched for the original on the White House’s Flickr page (seen below on the left). I then pulled them up side by side and it’s clear that it wasn’t just the plane door that was altered.
Again, it can be hard to see anything different between the two photos. But once you flip between the two it’s clear that the president’s stomach has been made slightly smaller. And the skin around his neck and the lower part of his face has been tightened up a little bit.
It’s easier to see the transformation in GIF form, especially around the president’s stomach. Keep an eye on the president’s tie:
It’s a subtle change, but that’s the point of using an app like Facetune. The goal is to make sure that no one notices. Everyone knows what President Trump looks like, so drastic alterations are going to be obvious immediately.
People tend to poke fun when Facetune is used too drastically, as they did when the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, posted a photo that had clearly been Facetuned to remove any wrinkles from their faces. It’s... not subtle.
President Trump’s Facebook account has 25.1 million followers, while his Instagram has 11.5 million. Those numbers are relatively small compared to the 57.5 million followers he has on Twitter, but they’re not nothing. Trump has previously thrown in his follower counts from both Facebook and Instagram when he makes the case that his ability to speak directly to the people is unparalleled.
And Trump has a point. For comparison, CNN has 30.9 million followers on Facebook, 6.6 million on Instagram, and 42. 1 million followers on Twitter.
Does it matter if the president is overweight? Not really. But for a guy who’s constantly complaining about fake news, it’s pretty hypocritical that President Trump’s social media team is using photos that have been altered to make him look thinner and less wrinkled. It’s especially weird that his fingers have been made longer, which might lead one to believe that the president has had some input in these alterations. But, again, that’s just speculation at this point.
President Trump’s weight has been a matter of public debate ever since he had a health assessment shortly before becoming president. Former White House physician Ronny Jackson called the president’s health “excellent” and claimed that Trump weighed 239 pounds back in January of 2018. As the oldest person to ever become president of the United States, it’s not unreasonable for Americans to be naturally curious about Trump’s health. And since it appears that Trump has gained a fair amount of weight in the past two years, supporters are probably wondering what kind of toll that might be taking on his stamina.
But the president can be as hefty as he likes and enjoy as many burgers as he desires. He doesn’t believe in exercise, after all, for some pretty bizarre reasons.
Most Americans don’t give a shit about President Trump’s weight, they just want him to open the damn government already. It’s day 31 of the shutdown and over 800,000 federal workers aren’t getting a paycheck right now. More and more Americans are turning to crowdfunding on GoFundMe and are selling things on Craigslist just to survive. And food banks across the country are under tremendous stress, as thousands of federal employees, from TSA agents to FBI agents, are literally working for free.
So maybe put down the Facetune and open the government, Mr. President. But don’t give up on McDonald’s. Eat as many Big Macs as you can. It’s for the good of the nation.
Correction: This article originally stated that President Trump’s first health assessment with White House physician Ronny Jackson was in “January of 2019.” That was a typo. It has been corrected to say “January of 2018.”