Did Trump undercut his chief White House photographer's book publishing plans?

Donald Trump.
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump's recently-released photo book Our Journey Together seems to have undercut in a number of ways the project his chief White House photographer Shealah Craighead had been planning, The New York Times reports.

For starters, aides asked Craighead for a cut of her book advance payment, should she want Trump to write her foreword and help promote the book, the Times reports, citing Trump's ex-associates. Then, the former president's team asked Craighead to delay her project so Trump could take her photos and those of other White House staff photographers and publish his own book, which now sells for as much as $230 a copy, the Times writes.

What's more, the plan to publish Our Journey Together came together after Craighead had found a book agent, negotiated a contract, and obtained a commitment from Trump to write her foreword. As she debated whether to move ahead with the project, a representative for the former president informed her Trump could no longer fulfill his promise due to a noncompete clause with his publisher.

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"It's a slap in the face," said Eric Draper, chief White House photographer during the Bush administration. "I would be disappointed if I were in her shoes."

Legally, the Times notes, Trump is allowed to do what he wants with the photographs, considering they are public domain and not subject to copyright. But in his dealings with Craighead, Trump appears to be the first former president to make money from a book planned by an ex-White House photographer, documentary filmmaker John Bredar told the Times.

For now, Craighead has decided to halt any project of her own.

"I stay apolitical as possible, as I am a neutral historical documentarian," she told the Times. "By staying neutral I am able to remain a keen observer."

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Brigid Kennedy

Brigid is a staff writer at The Week and a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Her passions include improv comedy, David Fincher films, and breakfast food. She lives in New York.