On 17 January 2017, the Palmer Report (formerly Daily News Bin) reported that Donald Trump’s inaugural preparations included a “hideous” Jumbotron video display screen specifically placed to all but block the Lincoln Memorial from view:
Someone may be trying a little too hard to compensate for something. In a move which is stunning within the annals of American norms and history but is not at all surpassing within the context of Donald Trump’s narcissism, he’s now erected a giant hideous Jumbotron screen in front of the Lincoln Memorial which is displaying promotions for him, while all but blocking out Abraham Lincoln and the monument behind it … And Trump wonders why he can’t get anyone respectable to show up to his pseudo-inauguration.
The report suggested that the accompanying photograph showed preparations for Trump’s inauguration (or, as they put it, “pseudo-inauguration”), leading readers to believe that the Jumbotron and its location were part of the ceremony. The image was credited to the Boston Globe‘s Matt Viser on 17 January 2017:
The Lincoln Memorial is being overtaken pic.twitter.com/TsVGmibC47
— Matt Viser (@mviser) January 17, 2017
News organizations reported that Jumbotrons were part of the setup for the ceremony but didn’t specify their locations. Rehearsals for Trump’s 20 January 2017 inauguration have been held in the Capitol’s west front area.
Although social media users seemed to believe the use of a Jumbotron was a Trump-specific inaugural detail, at least one was employed during both of President Obama’s swearing-in ceremonies, in 2009 and 2013:
We contacted Viser about the photograph, and he explained that he snapped it with his cell phone shortly before he shared it on Twitter, without editing it in any way. Viser said he frequently passes the site shown, and that in the week before his 17 January 2017 tweet workers had been out each day building a set that looked like one to be used for staging a concert. He also told us that music was being played as he snapped the shot, presumably as a sound check. He added that there were at least three Jumbotrons set up in the area.
The use of Jumbotrons during inaugural ceremonies dates to at least 2009, and the traditional location of a president’s swearing-in ceremony is the Capitol Building’s west front entrance, not the Lincoln Memorial (which is on the opposite side of the National Mall). It’s possible this video screen is intended to convey a live feed of the ceremonies to overflow crowds stationed across the Mall, or that it is to be used for some other ancillary inaugural function.