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. Howard Kurtz you are a putz

    easy Howard, changing the color of the shorts is bad?

    get a life

    April 23, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    I can't IMAGINE the reasoning behind changing the color of the swim suit........................?????

    About skin lightening or darkening, Obama IS half white and half black.

    I think he is hot, no matter what.

    April 23, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. Lynn West Bloomfield, Michigan

    I think what the magazine did is tacky, but I have to admit he looks yummy!

    April 23, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  4. J.Crobuzon

    Jane, I don't see your point. He IS the president. You mean you'd rather see pictures of Bush cutting brush in Crawford on one of the twelve six-week vacations he took each year? Or are you a Muslim who objects to shirtless men? Remember, he was voted into office by millions of Republicans!

    April 23, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  5. virginia nielsen

    A president that's really FIT to lead since day ONE !!!

    April 23, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  6. Christina, South Carolina

    This story is not news.

    April 23, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  7. Gracie, MD

    I'm so glad AMERICA has a very HOT, HOT, HOT, HOT, HOT PRESIDENT! President Obama is FIT, he's Athletic, he's TALL and VERY HANDSOME and he's got CHARISMA to die for. The man is just a total HOTTIE!!!

    I'm sure folks around the world WISHED their President was so good looking, and the icing on the cake is that he's just NOT good looking, he's also VERY, VERY INTELLIGENT. That's the TOTAL PACKAGE!!!
    I brag to all my friends in England, they LOVE President Obama, they wish they had a HOT & INTELLIGENT QUEEN and KING representing them!!

    The down side could be..... this could be a shirtless photo of.....

    1. Dick "spinster" Cheney
    2. Donald "wrinkled" Rumsfeld
    3. Karl the "dough boy" Rove
    4. Robert "the smurf" Gonzales

    Yeah... think about it. We ALL could be severely traumatize for life! Ugh....

    April 23, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  8. Daryl in Seattle

    He looked more buffed in the original photo, so is the issue that they didn't portray his actual hotness or something??? Ridiculous.

    April 23, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  9. Weegee

    I've been reading a book published almost 50 years ago about the first color photos to make it into newspapers. Apparently, color shots didn't look good unless there was red in the scene, so most newspaper photographers recommended changing some light colored element, such as a dress, into the color red. This was recommended for any "feature" photo. Says a little something about the purism in journalism we hold so dear.

    April 23, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  10. Bill in Austin

    I'm sure that Congressman Boehner will appoint two US Congressmen that no one has ever heard of to come out and state that these pictures are a threat to national security and disgraces the office of the President.. They will go on to say that he should be working on the economic problems instead of goofing off. Wait a second, President Bush spent half of his 8 years on vacation-never mind.

    April 23, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  11. Marcharino

    I just tried "Photo Shopping" a photo of California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for Washingtonian Magazine: However, it became way "too taxing," I felt "extremely spent," and he started to look alot like a Kennedy!

    April 23, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. HS Journalism teacher

    As a high school journalism teacher who teaches ethics to his students, this is wrong. When students see that magazines pull this stuff, then what does that teach them? It's no wonder my students think they can change items in a picture and not get caught. Unfortunately, they aren't very good at photoshop and most "changes" are obvious. A few times I've had to look long and hard to find it, but it's almost always detectable, because they haven't had enough practice. But still...this is not the example for a magazine to set.

    April 23, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  13. Mario Cee

    Carthy Merrill Williams, you're a shameless, unethical, ignorant, wanna-be journalist. You produce deceit and then excuse it as "conveying a concept." You are the reason journalists, in the past 30 years, have lost their reputation for honesty. You, and your ilk, have brought journalism down to the level of used car salesmen and personal injury attorneys. I have no respect for you.

    Mario Cee

    April 23, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  14. P. Y.

    @ the Other Michael in Houston

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

    April 23, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  15. The Broker.

    It seems I give the wrong impressions sometimes. To the confusion of information. Don't mean to...

    April 23, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  16. Jim

    @ Jack, Bal Harbor, Florida who said "Barry was not qualified and now all America is suffering (as will our children and grand-children) with his huge budget and over-spending."

    If you seriously think no one was suffering until AFTER Obama was voted in you are completely dilusional.

    And by the way, my grand parents generation heard similar things. And their children and grand children are doing just fine.

    April 23, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Uhhh isn't it clear that they changed the suit to red so that it would stand out against a black background??

    April 23, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  18. arithmetic is liberal

    barnhardt in NC April 23rd, 2009 2:02 pm ET

    Just running the picture of our president shirtless is inexcusable bad taste. I can't imagine this or any other magazine running a previous (ie: WHITE) president in this situation.

    John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

    April 23, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  19. Dude!

    sorry but the obamas ain't all that pretty. even though he's in a lot better shape than clinton ever was or most of the ones in the 1800's ever were.
    maybe they should've photoshopped his head onto Schwarzenneger's body. now that would've been at least fun!

    April 23, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  20. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Goodgagamooga! I give him a 10!!!!

    Oh yeah, right: it was poor judgement on the magazine's part, he is the President of our fine nation, I mean, nation; and I would just like to say to the magazine editors: THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!! lol

    April 23, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  21. Reasons

    The reason they heightened the color or 'saturation' of color on his skin is simple – against that black background, if they hadn't done that? He would have looked white. It would have washed him out completely.

    As for changing the color of his trunks, I don't think they should have done it. They had to be aware that there were other photos of him taken that day, and somebody would catch on. They should have made the background light blue, or slate blue. That's my opinion, anyway.

    April 23, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  22. Kelby In Houston, TX

    You people flock to the most frivolous stories on the ticker to comment on. There are so many other stories on the ticker today, that I think are more deserving of comments than a pic of topless Obama.
    Now I know the ladies love Obama, but come on. I thought you guys were deeper than that. there are 129 comments on this story and all the articles about the torture issue go un noticed...I think that issue is way more important that topless Obama

    April 23, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  23. William in San Jose

    Nice fluff piece for sheople here CNN..

    April 23, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  24. Kent - From Cali

    Like the President or not , he has charisma. We live in a country where most of us are overweight, so it's nice to see a President in great shape !(btw President Bush was in excellent shape, he just stayed out of the Paparrazzi's lens(.

    As for the magazine, the color of shorts didn't bother me. We all knew what the original color was. They never tried to cover that up.

    April 23, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  25. Marge

    OH pleeeeezzzzzz.

    April 23, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
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