Melania Trump may have earned as much as $1 million in royalties from Getty Images last year, thanks to an extremely unusual licensing agreement revealed in President Trump’s most recent financial disclosures.
According to the documents, first reported by NBC News, Mrs. Trump earned money whenever a media outlet used “any of a series of 187 photos of the first family, taken between 2010 and 2016 by the Belgian photographer Regine Mahaux.” According to NBC, the financial disclosure is not specific, but states the first lady raked in between $100,000 to $1 million in the last year alone.
In effect this means that any time an outlet uses one of these photos, they’re indirectly paying the first family. Outlets which have featured Mahaux’s portraits include the Houston Chronicle, the Daily Mail, NBC News, Yahoo News, My San Antonio and The San Francisco Chronicle. Complicating the issue further is the fact that Getty’s licensing agreement states the pictures must be used “in positive stories only.”
Since NBC News reported the agreement, several media outlets have removed the photos from their sites. “We were not aware of this specific arrangement with Getty nor was our editorial influenced by it,” Yahoo said in a statement. “We have removed the image from Yahoo Lifestyle.”
In most standard photography contracts, the photographer gets the royalties while the photo agency (in this case Getty Images) gets a fee for the use of an image. It’s not unheard of for celebrities to get a portion of the royalties, but it is extremely rare for the wife of an elected politician to receive them. Getty photographer Keith Major told NBC News that he agreed it was an unusual arrangement.
The White House declined to comment on what the Trumps have done with the royalties they’ve received through the Getty deal. “President Trump’s recent Public Disclosure Report, which included information regarding Mrs. Trump’s income and assets, was filed after being certified by the White House Ethics Counsel and the Office of Government Ethics,” a White House spokesperson said. “The report speaks for itself.”
Getty also declined to elaborate on whether there were separate royalty arrangements with other members of the Trump family, and said the amounts of payments were covered by confidential arrangements.
The NBC report is only the latest instance in which the first lady’s photos have become headline fodder. Last week, as outrage grew about the Trump administration’s family separation policy, Melania invited the press pool to watch her as she departed for a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border. However, she ended up further fanning the outrage by wearing a jacket with a phrase that read “I really don’t care, do u?”
Photos of her outfit immediately went viral, with the jacket — a $39 Zara coat — selling out online swiftly.
Although her aides claimed the jacket had no meaning, many speculated the first lady was sending a message. President Trump himself claimed the jacket had been intended for “the Fake News Media.”
“‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’ written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media,” he tweeted. “Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!”
“I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2018
The Washington Post also noted that the decision to invite the press pool to view her departure itself was unusual, further confirming the president’s tweet. “When the first lady travels alone from Washington, her tarmac arrival is traditionally closed to the media, so the decision to allow Mrs. Trump to be photographed seemed deliberate,” the Post’s Emily Heil wrote.