Opinion: Readers are tired of Trump photos. But what happens when his mug shot is the story?

Former President Trump's Fulton County, Ga., booking photo, taken Aug. 24, 2023
Former President Trump stares into the camera for his Fulton County, Ga., booking photo, taken Thursday.
(Associated Press)

Right now, the nation is confronting the chilling possibility that the next president of the United States could be serving from a prison cell, and it’s all because of a jailhouse mug shot that landed with a thud Thursday night.

Former President Trump, currently indicted on 91 felony counts in four cases across two states and the federal government, is one of the most photographed and filmed humans in history. But no image taken of him has drawn as much interest as the low-resolution one snapped Thursday at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, where he was indicted along with 18 others for the effort to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia.

How the media cover Trump — or, to put a finer point on it, how we make him look — has been the subject of debate since he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower and announced his candidacy in 2015. After Trump unwillingly left office in 2021, readers have protested The Times publishing prominent photos of the former president.


But what happens when the photo is the story? Read on to see how letter writers reacted to The Times’ coverage of the “mug shot seen ’round the world,” as one reader called it.


To the editor: I was greeted Friday morning by seeing, in The Times, the perfectly scowling face of former President Trump, in a booking photo taken at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta. He was clearly not pleased to be sitting for a jailhouse mug shot. In fairness, I wouldn’t be either.

Truth be told, I don’t like the man, and I continue to believe that he isn’t fit to be anything but a boorish oaf. He is world-class at that.

Given that this is a center-right country, and that Trump continues to have about the same level of support nationwide that President Biden does, I can readily see the possibility of the electoral college putting Trump back into the Oval Office.

The question of whether he can pardon himself for federal crimes becomes all the more interesting. For the sake of having a little fun with this, let’s say that he wins the presidency and becomes a convicted felon (or vice versa).

Nothing I’m aware of says that he can’t serve as leader of the free world from a prison cell. Travel would, presumably, be a problem, but he would be secure. Something to think about.


Doug Tennant, Dana Point


To the editor: Looking at the mug shot, I see the caption, “Donald Trump is seen here listening to a sobbing migrant mother pleading with him not to take her little girl away.”

We must never forget.

Bob Wicks, Brea


To the editor: Finally, we saw Trump booked as a criminal defendant, complete with his photo taken. Featuring one of the most image-obsessed defendants ever, we knew that it wouldn’t be an ordinary mug shot.

Trump didn’t disappoint. He looks as if he took great pains to have his hair freshly dyed, with meticulous placement of every bald-spot comb-over strand.

Then, to cap this momentous occasion, Trump, well, mugged for the camera, affecting the most contemptuous look he could manage.


It’s truly a mug shot for the history books.

Sarah S. Williams, Santa Barbara


To the editor: I wonder how many hours Trump spent in front of a mirror and merchandise advisors to get the perfect pose and glare for the mug shot seen ’round the world.

Trump is always looking for an angle, and this was no exception.

Linda Shahinian, Culver City


To the editor: The former president was booked at the Fulton County Jail and released on bond, and you decide to run the story on Page A-5?

Instead of his mug shot on the front page, we get a dated photograph of Lizzo. Oh well. At least you took a break from “Barbie” stories.


I look forward to more such savvy news judgments when the trials begin.

James J. Pacchioli, Los Angeles


To the editor: Thank you for burying Trump’s mug shot and booking story inside the Aug. 25 print edition. While the story is extraordinary in itself, it doesn’t belong on the front page.

Brilliant editorial decision.

Melanie Crawford, Woodland Hills


To the editor: The Trump indictment in Georgia rated only a place on Page A-5.

What are you trying to tell us? That it was not important enough for the front page? That the story is national news, and The Times puts only local news on the front page?


I don’t buy it. The world’s newspapers put it on the front page. You could have started the Trump story on the front page and continued it inside the paper.

No, I think the placement carries part of the story. The medium is the message. What is that message? That the editor supports Trump?

Ron Harris, Calabasas


To the editor: Thank you for listening to your readers and resisting the temptation to put Trump’s mug shot on the front page.

Nancy Foster, Pasadena