Creator of fake presidential seal hails 'absolute hero' who pulled off Trump stunt

Edward Helmore in New York
Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The creator of a fake presidential seal doctored with symbols of Russia and golf that Donald Trump unwittingly delivered a speech in front of at a meeting of young Republicans has said he is delighted with whoever pulled off the stunt.

“I love them,” Charles Leazott, a former Republican and graphic designer, told the Washington Post on Thursday, adding that the perpetrator was “either wildly incompetent or the best troll ever. Either way, I love them.”

The seal was doctored to resemble Russia’s coat of arms, and added golf clubs and an inscription changed from E pluribus unum – “out of many, one” – to the Spanish phrase “45 es un títere”, or “45 is a puppet”, was projected behind the president while he addressed the Turning Point USA meeting.

Leazott, a 46-year-old graphic designer who voted for George W Bush twice, said he created the image in 2016 as a comic protest.

Related: Trump stands before presidential seal doctored with symbols of Russia and golf

The faux seal flashed up on screen for about 80 seconds, until the projection was switched to the correct image. Initially, a spokesperson for TPUSA said they hadn’t been aware of the switch until the Washington Post called. A day later the group had identified the staffer responsible and described the mistake as “unacceptable”.

“We did let the individual go,” the spokesman told the Post. “I don’t think it was malicious intent but nevertheless …”

Leazott said he did not believe the explanation.

“You have to look for this,” Leazott told the newspaper. “There’s no way this was an accident, is all I’m saying.”

In the picture, Leazott substituted arrows in the one eagle’s claw for a set of golf clubs. In the other, he added a wad of cash and replaced the Latin motto with a Spanish insult. He then added a two-headed bird from the Russian coat of arms in place of the US eagle.

Leazott says the seal wasn’t intended for a wide audience but since the switch became public his line of T-shirts emblazoned with it has sold out and he’s been scrambling to fulfil more orders.

“It’s cool people are buying this, that’s great and all,” Leazott said. “I am so tickled in the most petty way possible that the president of the United States, who I despise, stood up and gave a talk in front of this graphic. Whoever put that up is my absolute hero.”