After Melania Trump's husband assumed the presidency, the First Lady earned a six-figure sum on an unusual photo agency deal, according to which major media organizations paid the Trump family without knowing it.
President Trump's financial report, published in May, shows that in 2017, the first lady earned at least $ 100 000 from Getty Images for using any of the 187 family photos taken between 2010 and 2016 years by Belgian photographer Regina Maho.
It is unheard of for celebrities to receive royalties from their own photos, but it is very unusual for a wife currently serving as an elected official.
However, more problematic for many news organizations that have published or broadcast images is that the Getty license agreement provides that images can only be used in “positive stories.”
According to President Trump's earnings report, Melania Trump earned $ 100,000 and $ 1,000,000 in royalties in the 2017 year from the Getty deal.
Federal officials must provide a range of income in their documents. However, both Getty and the White House rejected requests to provide more precise figures or list the places where the images appeared.
But NBC News found at least a dozen organizations that paid for using exclusive photos of Maho, which Melania Trump provided in 2017. This means that these organizations indirectly paid the first family.
Yahoo News, NBC News, Marie Claire, The Daily Mail, My San Antonio, Houston Chronicle, House Beautiful, and SF Gate, The San Francisco Chronicle site is among those who showed Maho's stylized family portraits since Trump took your presidency.
In the February issue of the fashion magazine Elle, released in February 2017, there was a portrait of the first family against the background of gilding.
A group portrait of the Belgian photographer, which depicts Donald, Melania and son Barron, was posted on the May page of the White House 2017 calendar of the year, which was sold at the White House gift shop for $ 14. Bent Publishing, which publishes calendars, confirmed that she licensed Maho's photo for the 2017 calendar of the year. In the 2018 calendar of the year, which is now sold in the gift shop, there is no image of Maho.
NBC News also found that many organizations used images before President Trump took office, although not a single income from the Getty deal was reported in financial information until 2017.
In August 2016, the portrait of Maho Trump candidate and his wife was published in the official guidebook of the Republican National Convention, which was issued to each delegate. Campaign finance reports show that money to pay for the guide came from political donations to the Republican National Committee.
The program was released by Great Lakes Publishing, which stated that it received an image from a committee that participates in organizing the convention. Jeff Larson, a political consultant who led this committee, said: "We did not pay any royalties, as far as I know, for this photo."
The French edition of Vanity Fair published one of the photographs on the cover of the August 2016 edition of the year.
Fox News used photos in various news segments in 2016. Greta Van Susterin’s On the Record show included two portraits of Melania Trump during an interview Van Susteren did to the future first lady. In November 2016, after Trump's victory, the first episode of the Fox News “OBJECTified” show, organized by TMZ founder Harvey Levin, showed the life of Donald Trump. The episode included two images of the photographer Maho.
A spokesperson for Fox News said in a statement that Maho’s photographs used by Fox were provided by Trump and Melania Trump’s office, who told us that they “have rights to photographs.”
A spokesman for NBC News said that NBC News did not agree or did not sign a statement that the images would be used for positive coverage, and it was never reported that a portion of the royalties would be given to the Trump family.
Several news organizations removed images from their sites after requests from NBC News.
Yahoo removed them and stated: “We did not know about this particular agreement with Getty. We removed the image from the Yahoo Lifestyle. ”
The San Francisco Chronicle also removed images from its website.
Photos were also removed from the Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News websites following requests from NBC News. Hearst Communications Inc. owns three newspapers and their sites. Images have remained on other Hearst sites, such as House Beautiful and Marie Claire. Representatives of these publications did not respond to calls from journalists and emails.
French Vanity Fair, Russian Elle and Daily Mail and Paris Match, which also used photos, did not respond to requests for comment.
In a standard photo contract photographer receives royalties, and the photo agency receives a fee for each use of the image. Models are not paid royalties.
According to Akili Ramesses, executive director of the National Association of Photographers for the Press, paying royalties to Trump and limiting use only in a positive way is unusual. She said that while famous weddings or children's photos are sometimes licensed, so some of the fees are returned to celebrities, this happens very rarely with politicians.
There are no hints in the Getty license agreement that the money is also paid to Trump, and the agreement does not appear to have been public until the income was indicated in the presidential financial statements in May.
However, in his Getty directory clearly shows that the images can be licensed only with the permission of Getty or, in some cases, the photographer Maho, and that the images can only be used for "positive stories."
Probably, the news organizations were not aware of the payments to Melania Trump, but could be aware of the published provisions on positive coverage in the catalog.
Getty Images told NBC News that the details and amounts of payments to the Trump family are hidden by confidential agreements. The agency declined to say whether there are separate royalty agreements with other members of the Trump family.
In a statement, the White House spokesman said: “A recent report on the public disclosure of President Trump’s financial information, which included information on Ms. Trump’s income and assets, was filed after he was certified by the White House’s ethics lawyer and the State Ethics Office.” .
When NBC News reached Regina Maho on the phone, she said that “everything is legal” and then asked all questions to be sent to her by email. NBC repeatedly e-mailed their questions, but did not receive a response.
Most modern first ladies published books and other commercial products during their time at the White House, and then donated all the money to charity. Laura Bush donated an advance from the book to charity organizations, and Michelle Obama allocated funds to the National Park Foundation.
The wife of Mike Pence's vice president, Karen, announced that the proceeds from her children's book would be transferred to a children's hospital in Indiana and a non-profit organization to combat trafficking in women. In 2017, Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the president and the wife of senior adviser Jared Kushner, said she would provide most of the advance and any future royalties from her book “Women Who Work” to charity.
The White House declined to comment on whether Trump sent any portion of the Getty income to charity.