Donald Trump hijacked White House staff photographer Shealah Craighead’s book deal by taking her images and publishing them in a book of his own, the New York Times reported Thursday.
Published in December, “Our Journey Together” makes Trump the first former president to attempt to personally profit from a White House photographer’s planned book.
Since Ronald Reagan, it has been tradition for the official White House photographer to publish a book of their most notable images of the president under which they served.
According to the article, Craighead had already secured a publishing deal – including a six-figure advance – when she notified the White House about the book. Trump had also agreed to write the forward, as is custom for presidents to do.
But her plan began to fall apart when Trump’s aides asked for a share of the profits for the forward and for helping promote the book. His team later asked her to delay publishing the book so that Trump could publish a book of his own using the work of Craighead and other White House photographers, for which he received a multimillion-dollar advance.
The book, which is retailing for up to $230 apiece, sold out its first 300,000 copies for an estimated gross of $20 million. It’s sold on the website of Winning Team Publishing, the company co-founded by Donald Trump Jr. and Republican campaign operative Sergio Gor.
“President Trump has always had an eye for beautiful and engaging curation, which came alive through the pages of his book,” said Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich in a statement to the Times.
The Times also spoke to insiders who said that Trump would often insult Craighead and her photography skills in front of guests and other photographers.
The 317-page volume does not credit any of the photographers featured, including Craighead, whose work accounts for a large portion. Their names are listed in the acknowledgments on the last page.
Though White House insiders and photographers described Trump’s actions as “shame” and a “slap in the face,” the move isn’t illegal. According to federal law, photographs taken by White House staff photographers during a president’s tenure are in the public domain and not subject to copyright.
Craighead, who served as a White House photographer for the George W. Bush administration, told the Times that her own book is on indefinite hiatus.
“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.”
After Trump’s staff was interviewed for the Times article, he reached out to Craighead and offered to collaborate on another book in the future. This time, he would be willing to write the forward, he told her.