How photojournalist Earl Dotter discovered Russians used his work as pro-Trump propaganda

In 1976, Dotter photographed a striking portrait of a coal miner — 40 years later, Russian trolls stole it. He saw it in the Mueller report.

'This was a violation of my copyright,' said Dotter, who found his work in the Mueller report

Earl Dotter's 1976 photo of coal miner Lee Hipshire was used by a Russian agency as pro-Donald Trump propaganda during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to the Mueller report. (Earl Dotter)

Esteemed photojournalist, Earl Dotter, has been documenting Americans at work for the last 50 years. In 1976, he photographed a striking portrait of a Logan County, W.Va., coal miner named Lee Hipshire — 40 years later, Russian trolls stole it. 

On page 31 of the Mueller report, Dotter's photograph of Hipshire appears as an example of Russian interference, as it was used on a poster to promote a "Miners for Trump" rally in Pennsylvania.

Dotter's photo of Hipshire can be found on page 31 of the Mueller report. (Submitted by Earl Dotter)

Hipshire died in 1987 from coal worker's pneumoconiosis, or black lung. According to his family, he was a life-long Democrat and would have been horrified to see his portrait used to promote a Trump rally.

Dotter is also unhappy. When he discovered that his photograph was used for the rally without his permission, he contacted the FBI.

"This was a violation of my copyright," said Dotter. "It was a violation of the values that Lee Hipshire personally stood for, and to my mind, it was a theft."

Produced by Diane Eros

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