News media paid Melania Trump thousands for use of photos in ‘positive stories only’
Since her husband took office Melania Trump has earned six figures from an unusual deal with a photo agency in which major media organizations have indirectly paid the Trump family despite a requirement that the photos be used only in positive coverage.
President Donald Trump’s most recent financial disclosure reveals that in 2017 the first lady earned at least $100,000 from Getty Images for the use of any of a series of 187 photos of the first family shot between 2010 and 2016 by Belgian photographer Regine Mahaux.
It’s not unheard of for celebrities to earn royalties from photos of themselves, but it’s very unusual for the wife of a currently serving elected official. More problematic for the many news organizations that have published or broadcast the images, however, is that Getty’s licensing agreement stipulates the pictures can be used in “positive stories only.”
According to the revenue statement in President Trump’s May financial disclosure, Melania Trump earned between $100,000 and $1,000,000 in photo royalties in 2017 from the Getty deal.
Federal officials are only required to give an income range in their filings, and both Getty and the White House declined requests to provide more precise figures or list the places the images had appeared.
But NBC News found at least a dozen organizations that had paid to use Mahaux’s restricted images of the Trumps in 2017, resulting in indirect payment to the first family.
Yahoo News, NBC News, Marie Claire, the Daily Mail, My San Antonio, Houston Chronicle, House Beautiful, and SF Gate, the website for The San Francisco Chronicle, are among those that have featured Mahaux’s highly stylized family portraits since Trump took office.
The February 2017 issue of the Russian edition of the fashion magazine Elle included a gilded Mahaux portrait of the first family.
A Mahaux group portrait of Donald, Melania and son Barron Trump was featured on the May page of the White House 2017 calendar that was on sale in the White House gift shop for $14. Bent Publishing, which publishes the calendars, confirmed that it licensed the Mahaux photo for the 2017 calendar. The 2018 calendar now on sale at the gift shop does not include any Mahaux images.
NBC News also found that numerous entities had used the images before President Trump took office, though no income from the Getty deal was itemized in any financial disclosure prior to 2017.