Trump campaign misrepresents photo from Ukrainian revolution to illustrate ‘chaos’
In an ad published on Facebook, the re-election campaign of U.S. President Donald J. Trump has mistakenly used footage of a scuffle between protesters and police during Ukraine’s 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution to represent “chaos & violence” in the United States.
The photo appears to have been taken from the Wikipedia page for the EuroMaidan Revolution.
The Trump campaign used the photo to express opposition to recent protests against racism, which have rocked the U.S since the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, on May 25.
Protesters have vandalized government buildings, toppled monuments to historical figures they deem racist and, at times, looted shops. U.S. law enforcement has responded to the protests with physical force, often cracking down violently on peaceful demonstrators.
The ad, which ran on July 21–22, depicts Trump and his officials as representing “public safety,” whereas the image of violence on the streets of Kyiv is used to represent “chaos and violence.”
The photo was originally taken by Ukrainian photographer Mstyslav Chernov, now a journalist for U.S. news agency Associated Press.
“Unfortunately, photography has always been used to manipulate public opinion,” Chernov told the Kyiv Post. “With the development of social networks, and the wave of populism around the world, this is happening even more.”
According to him, the Trump ad does not infringe on the photo’s copyright because the image was published on online encyclopedia Wikipedia under a Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to use it.
The campaign ad featuring the image, promoted on Facebook for around $100 a day, reached around 1,000 people. It was used to promote Evangelicals for Trump, a campaign aiming to encourage the Evangelical Christian community to support Trump on a “pro-life” and “religious freedom” platform.
Trump relies heavily on support from the evangelical community. A recent poll by Pew Research Center suggests that Trump’s approval rating among evangelicals recently slipped. Nevertheless, 82% of evangelicals still plan to vote for him again in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
Chernov shot the EuroMaidan Revolution, and his images have been seen worldwide. He also reported from the Syrian Civil War and from eastern Ukraine about the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.
Chernov’s work has been featured exclusively on CNN, the BBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post. He also won several Royal Television Society awards in the U.K., whose organizers praised Mstyslav for his “exceptional eye for detail.”
He does not plan to take any legal action against the misrepresentation of the photo.
The Trump campaign’s misuse of Chernov’s work is particularly odd given Trump’s turbulent relationship with Ukraine.
In his recently published memoir, former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton alleged that Trump said he did not “want to have any fucking thing to do with Ukraine.”
“They fucking attacked me. I can’t understand why… They tried to fuck me. They’re corrupt. I’m not fucking with them,” Trump said, according to Bolton.