A Mobile teacher and mother got a taste of internet fame last year — for better or worse — when a candid photo of her reaching her baby son, Jackson, toward presidential candidate Donald Trump received attention nationwide.
“I didn’t realize that a photo was being taken from the stage,” Shuford explained in an email message this week, as President-elect Trump returned to Mobile as part of a multi-state “thank you” tour after taking an electoral college victory last month. “My husband was taking a picture of us with his iPhone and I was laughing as I couldn’t believe my baby was getting a kiss from a celebrity. The photo my husband took was meant to be funny.”
Not much thought was put into the photo at the time. Shuford said she and her husband, David, wanted to get as close to the stage as possible to see if Trump would notice Jackson.
“My two daughters were on the field as the rally came to an end,” she said. “As Trump was leaving, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if The Donald kissed Jackson? Let’s go try.”
The photo, taken by freelance Tallahassee photographer Mark Wallheiser for Getty Images, started to go viral soon after the rally ended. Shuford wrote that she began to get texts and phone calls when the photo began circulating nationwide.
“I got a text from my cousin saying ‘You made the Chicago Tribune!’ with a link to the article,” she wrote. “I still didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Then I started getting more calls and texts with people telling me it was all over the news. It was a little surreal.”
It wasn’t all positive, though. In addition to being used to illustrate the excitement from the crowd at the event, many on the internet also poked fun at the photo.
“I have mixed feelings about the popularity,” Shuford said. “I’m glad we have the picture, as it’s always a good conversation piece. On the other hand, it was a disturbing discovery as we realized how many hateful people live amongst us, and the negativity those people inspire.”
Although she thinks some of the so-called memes were mean spirited, she did find humor in some. She wrote some were “hilarious,” especially one where someone photoshopped her face onto all the faces in the crowd.
Shuford and her family attended Trump’s event last week at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
“It was nice to see a candidate interested in Mobile and the people of Mobile,” she wrote. “I think it’s nice to see that Mobile is on the map and known to be a friendly place for the president-elect.”