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. joe m

    not quite sure how putting a shirtless pic of a president conveys the point... i'd think having to live anywhere near any politician would be a reason not to be so in 'love' with a place... i'd have understood it more if the magazine put a pic of the washington memorial, or the cherry blossoms, or some other thing on the cover to make their point. i can't be certain that anyone who identifies themselves a conservative, independent, republican, or just fed up with the government would agree that living in the same town with the current president is a good reason to be in love with the place.

    April 23, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  2. Tim, Seattle

    So Howie.....a little bored these days? So glad you are policing the media on this all important topic (rolling eyes)

    April 23, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  3. stevendm

    Tasteless President, tasteless photo

    April 23, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  4. P. Y.

    @ the other Michael in Houston

    Good answer ! I totally agree !
    Some people just don't get it.

    April 23, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  5. Fred

    No secret why you keep hearing him being compared to Kennedy. Not because of anything in his rookie political background, but because of the female comments on here. Yep, he got the fickle females votes based off his looks, just like Kennedy.

    April 23, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  6. RanDe

    Are you kidding me, magazines and tabloids do this kind of stuff all the time every day day in day out and now because it's King Obama
    they're being criticized, Are you sure that the objections aren't just to create more publicity. if other celebrities have to tolerate this reality than so should the president.

    April 23, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  7. nwg6011

    Can you say "Swimsuit Edition?"

    What's next? A Presidents Gone Wild video – starring George W Bush in a thong???

    April 23, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  8. mwkennedy

    This issue is definitely in the gray area of media. I for one agree with Kurtz above. We have too many "media outlets" and paparazzi hiding behind freedom of press when in fact they are not interested in distributing news. Freedom of press was built on the idea of information for the public good....not sensationalized photos and gossip of the new "it" celebrity.

    The issue I have with this picture is not the changes that were made. No one really cares what color Obama's swimsuit is. But what if the media outlet decided they wanted to add a tattoo to make Obama "edgier". Is that over the line? I think so. Media companies, for the most part, control public perception of issues, people, and topics. When they can arbitrarily alter aspects of those things, that's where the public needs to be concerned.

    Journalists and editors have become more concerned with selling their opinions than actually distributing the news for the public good. And that to me shouldn't be protected by "Freedom of the Press".

    April 23, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  9. San Antonio

    What's unethial is the reporter continully calling him Mr. Obama thoughout the video. I thought it was President Obama.

    April 23, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. RealityKing

    The joke is on the progressive news organizations, like CNN, that rushed to uuu and ahhh over this fabricated president..

    April 23, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  11. San Antonio

    What's unethical is the reporter continually calling him Mr. Obama throughout the video. I thought it was President Obama.

    April 23, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  12. jm for sc

    One purpose for the change is the black shorts looks more classier than the red ones.

    April 23, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  13. lovable liberal

    The magazine no doubt loves this additional publicity.

    Note: Too bad Howard Kurtz doesn't care about more common factual journalistic ethics.

    April 23, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  14. yaaba

    I like the picture and will buy copies to give as gifts. Grest job!

    April 23, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  15. sandy

    This picture is not Pres. Obama's fault. He was on vacation and he was doing what everyone does when on vacation. The media invaded his personal property. Though I agree that he is a very nice looking man he is our President and his picture in a bathing suit does NOT belong on the cover of any magazine. His office should be respected whether you agree with his policies or not. This magazine has no respect for the office of the Presidency, it is only trying to make money. This is one person who will not buy the magazine simply because of the cover.

    April 23, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  16. JJ in NY

    Looks like they changed his skin color too !

    April 23, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  17. Lindsay

    They gave him a tan and changed the color of his shorts. Big whoop-de-freaking-doo. Magazines do this constantly - I should know, I used to work for one. Every single magazine that you pick up has photoshopped the cover. Every single one.

    April 23, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  18. James

    Quote: "We should all be as fit as our President".

    Did you catch the news that Obama is a cigarette smoker?

    April 23, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  19. Wendy

    Dishonest. Not news-worthy if they altered the photo.

    April 23, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  20. JM

    who cares!!

    April 23, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  21. kayla

    Is that not what magazine companies do anyway; deception by photos just to get more publicity? Anyway....I think they chose to alter his swim trunks instead of the background b/c a different color would emphasize his man junk....as you can tell, you can't get that affect with black. There you go. That's what they were angling the article toward anyway, right??? haha

    April 23, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  22. Bruce

    This president cares more about his popularity and how he looks than he does the safety and well-being of the citizens of this country.

    April 23, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  23. Leena

    They took out the glare and changed the color of his shorts? Grow up if you think this is an issue. Do you think the people you see in ANY magazine haven't been touched up? The infractions on this one are minor, it's not like they changed his body or something he was carrying in his hand.

    And it's a nice pic but did we really need to see our President as a sex symbol in that way? Yes I know Europeans do it all the time with their leaders, but it's borderline disrespectful.

    April 23, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  24. ??????

    This is ridiculous. WHO CARES?? This picture itself wasnt journalism.

    April 23, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  25. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    A President with "wash-tub abs,"----refreshing--

    April 23, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
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