Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
August 23, 2019

Trump Hospital Photo Ops after El Paso, Dayton Mass Shootings

First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald J. Trump pose for photos and meet members of the Anchondo family Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, at the University Medical Center of El Paso in El Paso, Texas. Jordan and Andre Anchondo were among the 22 people killed in a mass shooting Saturday at a Walmart in El Paso. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

At a hospital in El Paso, Texas where survivors of a mass shooting were being treated, President Donald Trump and Melania Trump posed for a photo with a baby who was orphaned after a white nationalist fired an AK-47-style rifle at Walmart shoppers. Standing beside the First Lady who was cradling the baby, the President held up his thumb and beamed at the camera. The widely-circulated photo has been labeled a “wretched, shameful display.” Others have called President Trump and his wife the “surrogate angels of death.” 

In our latest tweet thread, we discuss that photo and the visual PR that came out of the President’s hospital visits in El, Paso Texas and Dayton, Ohio following the mass shootings that occurred there the second week of August.

Many people blamed President Trump’s rhetoric for enabling and fueling the domestic terror attack. The shooter had specifically targeted Latinos as emphasized in a manifesto published online just prior to the rampage. 

In response, Trump turned the tragedy into a photo opportunity to further his agenda and counter the criticism that his policies and his demeanor might have contributed in any way.

All of the survivors who were recovering at the hospital in El Paso refused to see the President. According to The Washington Post, the two who met with him were already discharged. (The irony here is that all of this was happening while victims might have been avoiding hospitals after the attack because of the fear of possibly being arrested by ICE agents.)

So the White House made up the difference by posting more photos. It should be noted that the White House barred reporters from both hospital visits, so its own handout photos, shaped to the President’s agenda, were the only record to go on.

Trump’s attention quickly shifted from the survivors to his supporters.

At the hospital in Dayton, Ohio, the President and First Lady followed a similar script. 

But the role that survivors played in the President’s political show was most obvious in the El Paso photos.

Shielding their son from the bullets, Paul Anchondo’s parents died for him. This is a quick rundown of what led to that picture:

Once the photo of the Anchondo baby showed up in Melania’s Trump’s Twitter and Instagram feeds, it quickly became the marquee image of the hospital visit. Many on social media were horrified by the photo.

Although media and social media focused on the one Anchondo portrait, we looked at the entire set.

In the photo below, we see a close-up of Paul Anchondo’s bandaged hand, which was broken during the shooting.

These elements are easy to miss, but the details reveal relevant nuances of this presidency.

The portrait of Paul is insensitive at best and obscene at worst. Across the board, these White House photos demonstrate political opportunism in the face of horror and tragedy.

Photo: Andrea Hanks/Official White House Photo. Caption: First Lady Melania Trump holds the two-month-old son of Jordan and Andre Anchondo, as she and President Donald J. Trump pose for photos and meet members of the Anchondo family Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, at the University Medical Center of El Paso in El Paso, Texas. Jordan and Andre Anchondo were among the 22 people killed in a mass shooting Saturday at a Walmart in El Paso. 

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