Ronnie Hipshire did not expect to see his dad’s face in the Mueller report, and neither did the photographer of the image that graced the cover of Time magazine in 1978.

The photo of Lee Hipshire appears on Page 31 of the 448-page document, used as an example of how Russians attempted to use social media to sway the 2016 presidential election. But the subject on the “Miners for Trump” poster promoting rallies in Pennsylvania wouldn’t have approved, according to his son, a West Virginia resident.

“How in the world did they steal that picture and use it for a campaign poster for Trump? It was something my dad would have never went for,” Ronnie Hipshire said. “I mean, he was a staunch Democrat, my dad was. He always believed that Democrats [were] for the working people and Republicans [were] for the companies, and to see his picture supporting Trump, it made me right sick in my stomach, knowing that Dad’s picture had been used like that.”

Lee Hipshire, a coal miner for three decades, died in 1987 at age 57 from complications of black lung, his son said.

Lee Hipshire's photo appears in Earl Dotter's "The Quiet Sickness: A Photographic Chronicle of Hazardous Work in America" series.
Earl Dotter / Courtesy
Lee Hipshire's photo appears in Earl Dotter's "The Quiet Sickness: A Photographic Chronicle of Hazardous Work in America" series.

The son, who first described his response to NPR, said he learned of the image’s inclusion from the photographer, Earl Dotter, who documents Americans at work and is author of the book The Quiet Sickness: A Photographic Chronicle of Hazardous Work in America, where the photo serves as the cover. A colorized version of it appeared on the March 20, 1978, cover of Time and in the National Portrait Gallery.

» MUELLER REPORT: Read the full document

Dotter, a Roxborough native and Maryland resident, said he took the picture in 1976, when he was a photographer for the United Mine Workers Journal, and was made aware of the “Miners for Trump” leaflet in February 2018. He later got in touch with the FBI about its unauthorized use.

“I thought, ‘Well, it fell on deaf ears at the agency,’ but apparently it had not,” he said Tuesday.

The flier that uses Hipshire’s image reads, “Miners for Trump: Bring Back our Jobs,” and asks, “How many Pa. workers lost their jobs due to Obama’s destructive policies? Help Mr. Trump Fix It!” The plans for rallies in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were organized by the Russian Internet Research Agency, and were among many orchestrated by Russian internet trolls, according to the report.

There’s no evidence that the rallies scheduled in October 2016 for Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Wilkes-Barre, and Erie ever took place. There were no permit applications filed for the day of the Philly rally, either.

A screenshot from Mueller's report showing a poster for a "Miners for Trump" event in Pennsylvania that was allegedly organized by Russian trolls.
Special Counsel's Office
A screenshot from Mueller's report showing a poster for a "Miners for Trump" event in Pennsylvania that was allegedly organized by Russian trolls.

The redacted version of the Mueller report, released Thursday, concluded that while Russians had interfered in the 2016 election, Trump’s campaign did not take steps to help them. The special counsel was not able to conclude whether Trump engaged in obstruction of justice.

Since its release, some Democratic lawmakers have called for Trump’s impeachment and for Mueller to testify, while the president’s legal team has taken a victory lap.

“I think there was a reason that Robert Mueller used this image, because it’s emblematic of how Russian fake media ... promoted the dissension in the ranks of coal miners and working people in particular with misinformation,” Dotter said. “To me, that’s the crux of the message in the Mueller report in many ways, and I think that’s why it ended up in the report.”