Fact Checker

Trump campaign uses unauthorized and altered Gazette photo to criticize Biden

New ad manipulates photo from Coralville to depict Biden hiding in Delaware basement

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden sits on the floor Dec. 27, 2019, during a Holiday Bowl watch party at Coralv
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden sits on the floor Dec. 27, 2019, during a Holiday Bowl watch party at Coralville Mayor John Lundell’s home in Coralville. A new reelection ad for President Donald Trump manipulated the image to falsely say Biden was hiding in his Delaware basement. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Editor’s note: Facebook removed the Trump campaign’s ad on Thursday after The Gazette filed a copyright violation report. The Gazette made a similar request of Twitter on Wednesday; the ad still is available on that platform.

A new ad from President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign uses a manipulated version of a news photo taken in Coralville by a Gazette photographer to falsely say it shows presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden hiding in his Delaware basement.

The image, which was used without The Gazette’s permission, was taken by Photo Editor Liz Martin in December 2019 when Biden was visiting the home of Coralville Mayor John Lundell.

About three dozen supporters and journalists were at the event, Martin said, and Biden sat on the floor to give someone else his seat.

The Gazette’s policy forbids the use of Gazette news photos for any political advertising. Neither Martin nor Diana Pesek, who handles the newspaper’s licensing requests, gave the campaign permission to republish the image.

“It’s vital we maintain our editorial independence, especially as an independently owned media company covering the first-in-the-nation caucuses,” Martin said in an interview.

The image appears about five seconds into the ad, which was shared Wednesday by the Trump campaign’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. The campaign did not immediately respond Wednesday afternoon to a request for comment.


On Twitter, Iowa Sen. Zach Wahls also recognized the setting of the photo. Wahls, a Democrat whose district includes Coralville, said he was at Lundell’s home that night and said the mayor’s knee can be seen in the cropped image used in the ad.

“I was literally in the room of my Iowa town mayor’s Holiday Bowl watch party when this photo was taken. Biden was neither hiding nor alone nor in ‘the heart of Delaware’ when this photo was taken …” he said in a tweet.

Martin said she recognized the photo as her own because of its framing as well as its details — Lundell’s knee and hand placement, a plastic water bottle and how a table intersected with Biden’s leg. However, a group of people behind Biden was deleted in the ad’s manipulation.

Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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