Sullivan Wood couldn’t have been prouder to meet Hillary Clinton.
The then-4-year-old girl dressed up as the Democratic presidential nominee for Halloween, complete with a blazer and a “senator’s briefcase.” Then, she had her picture taken with Clinton during a 2015 campaign swing through her home town of Charleston.
The resulting photo still hangs in Sullivan’s bedroom. Unfortunately, when Sullivan’s mother, Jennifer Jones-Wood, put the photo online, people less well disposed to Clinton’s presidential campaign got their hands on it.
After the election, Jones-Wood was alerted by a friend to a meme – a widely shared, viral piece of media – someone had made of the photo and shared across the web. The result – which referenced genital mutilation and pedophilia – horrified Jones-Wood.
“It was a horrific meme,” she said Tuesday.
“I tried to take care of it myself,” Jones-Wood said, contacting the Facebook group that used Sullivan’s photo in the meme it apparently created. By then, however, the image had spread far and wide across multiple sites.
Needing help, Jones-Wood, 46, who works an overnight shift in a Charleston hotel, started looking for allies.
“I posted to Pantsuit Nation,” a Facebook group of Clinton supporters. One person who saw the post happened to work for the Anti-Defamation League civil rights group. Jonathan Vick, the league’s assistant director of cyberhate response, was just as offended by the meme as Sullivan’s mother.
“It might have been one thing if it was an adult, but this is a child,” Vick said.
Fortunately for mother and daughter, the photo had been snapped by members of the Clinton campaign, who had a “clear cut” copyright objection to the meme, Vick said. They quickly were able to get taken down every instance of the image they could find.
“Within a week, we straightened the matter out,” Vick said.
Since it had mostly been shared across social media, “once the original was taken down, the rest became unavailable,” Jones-Wood said. “I couldn’t have done it on my own.”
Meanwhile, Sullivan still has the original photo in her bedroom, oblivious to the controversy it caused online.