April 23rd, 2009
05:00 PM ET
14 years ago

Magazine takes heat for doctoring Obama pic

(CNN) - A magazine is taking heat for making undisclosed alterations of a photograph of President Obama in a bathing suit.

Washingtonian Magazine changed the color of the president's shorts and made a few other touch-ups, but media critic Howard Kurtz calls the small adjustments "unethical."

"While the alternations of this picture might seem to some people to be kind of minor, it is absolutely unethical," he said. "It is dishonest. It is not journalism. You cannot present a news photo, particularly of a president, but of anybody, and alter it through digital technology without being honest about it with readers."

Cathy Merrill Williams, the publisher of Washingtonian, disagreed, saying the publication was merely trying to convey a concept.

"When you're in the magazine business you're trying to get across a concept or an idea," she said. "Changing…the color of his shorts didn't change the overall image portrayed. It was President Obama in a bathing suit walking."

The White House is officially not commenting on the altered photo.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (284 Responses)
  1. Candy West Virginia

    Not much change, he still looks delicious!

    April 23, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  2. CO

    If people don't want to see the President shirtless, then the paparazzi should quit invading his personal and family space. Blame the media, not Obama.

    April 23, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  3. Melissa

    Makes sense.

    The paparazzi will do anything to get pictures of a celebrity. ANYTHING. I understand about freedom of the press and all, but they're so concerned with whether they can do it, that they don't stop to think if they should.

    I sincerely doubt that Obama gave his permission for release of that picture (though I might add that he is nice to look at).

    April 23, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  4. Paul

    We should all be as fit as our President. (never thought I'd see myself say that)

    April 23, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  5. AndyL

    Ok so he's not a stuffed shirt But he still doesn't know what he's doing.

    April 23, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  6. shoegazer

    I would think he would have taken Shrub out in a best of three falls.

    April 23, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  7. Baze

    The reason why this wasn't good is because a lot of people, including myself thought that this was a different picture than the one we'd seen of Obama on his vacation last year. It makes it look like the president is constantly on vacation and showing off, which isn't cool.

    April 23, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  8. steve

    The joys and pitfalls of a celebrity being president, eh?

    April 23, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  9. Laurie in Spokane

    Jeeze Louise, just print the picture as it was taken. Why is there ANY need to do ANYTHING with it? It's dishonest, deceitful, not true journalism. Another blow to the media.

    April 23, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. Sumar

    Black swim suit wouldn't have shown up with a black back ground, so what's the big deal of turning it red? Now if they would have changed the color of his skin I could understand the complaints..........but they didn't and he still looks grrrrrrreat...............

    April 23, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  11. Cathy in AZ

    I have no problem with the photo especially if its trying to convey all of us need to be in better shape!
    to Andy L – he does know what he is doing, you just need to listen!

    April 23, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    This whole thing is retarded. Everyone is giving Washingtonian exactly what it wanted: publicity. It's all free advertising.

    April 23, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. Lillie

    President Obama is brillant and fine! 🙂

    April 23, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. Debby, NJ...foot soldier 'til 2016

    Not cool.

    April 23, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  15. Mark-USN Retired

    The president is a Public figure and as such somewhat forfeits his right to privacy, however the "rock star" status thrust upon him places him at the "tip of the papparazi spear" so to speak. The ethical question was not posed about taking or publishing the photo, the ethical question was posed for making "alterations" to the picture. I say this is a "non-story" and we should let the journalist ethisists debate it.

    April 23, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. Connie

    I second that emotion, Candy!! De-lic-ious!

    April 23, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  17. Eric Roberts

    What concept were they trying to show by changing the color of his shorts? That he has more than one pair of shorts? *confused look*

    April 23, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  18. Audrey

    I agree that the magazine has acted unethically – come on, altering the man's image in ANY way is unethical; and even moreso, this is an invasion of the President' privacy since he did not give them permission to use his image for their cover. It appears people are trying to exploit the Obama name/image however they can for a profit. It is unethical, immoral and downright tasteless. I hope they don't get the sales they're hoping for!

    April 23, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  19. Jane

    And this is the man we call President? OMG

    April 23, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  20. Jim

    I think it's disrespectful to the office to be constantly showing this picture of our president half naked. I doubt he appreciates it.

    April 23, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  21. Kelly

    Would somebody please tell me when pictures are NOT doctored? How long have people's images been "tweaked" in order to make them look perfect? I disagree with the practice completely, especially in the news, but good luck trying to change it.

    April 23, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  22. Rashid

    Yea I agree with Baze, I was also disappointed when I saw the photo. It made me think he's always vacationing, but it's the SAME photo from last summer.
    Hopefully the major news networks will report this & clear the issue. I just hate it when people accuse our President for things that are not true.

    April 23, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  23. Tim

    It's only common sense that a black swim suit wouldn't have showed up on the black background. People just love to create drama and anxiety. They thrive on it. Howard Kurtz is an idiot. How's that for drama.

    April 23, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  24. Paula

    Great President, tasteless photo

    April 23, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  25. Sammy

    All they had to do is put the alterations in the fine print. However, at least they darken his skin like another mag did all those years ago.

    April 23, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
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