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. Ken in NC

    HIs skin tone was changed and the color of his swim trunks were changed so it was a doctored picture of the President. The magazine should have posted the fact that his was a doctored picture.

    April 23, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  2. Simmy

    Very unclassy and unprofessional to alter an already flawless photo. Even tackier to put it on the cover of their magazine.......even if he's a hunk....He's our president, and he's happily married......Some things are better left undone....

    April 23, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  3. Brandon

    As a graphic designer, I find this manufactured "outrage" ridiculous. Sometimes you have to make photo alterations to make a layout work. Plain and simple. Some folks need a hobby.

    April 23, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Besides for the shorts, I can't tell where the alterations were made. Did they try to tone his chest up?

    April 23, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. Rashid

    Don't even worry about hoping the magazine doesn't get any sales. The fact that we're debating about this means they're making a profit.

    April 23, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  6. RBeezy

    First rule of journalism is that images remain unadulterated.

    If this was a photo design exercise than sure, do what you want. But as a photo to a journalistic story, don't touch!

    They still teach that in J-School right?

    April 23, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  7. Miguel

    1. They lose credibility by doctoring the photo.

    2. For all those opining that the president did not give "permission" for them to use that picture - get a grip! The president is a public figure, no one needs permission to take or publish his photo.

    April 23, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  8. David

    ok, really....
    is this news? Show me a magazine out there that does not alter their cover photo. Everyone in the publishing world alters their images for their magazines, especially the covers. Backgrounds are replaced with other images, color correction is done, blemishes are removed, lighting is changed for a desired effect. They wanted a dramatic cover, so they put in a black background, they needed to change the color of the shorts and adjust the skin tone a bit to contrast with the background. Its not like the image came from a studio shoot. they needed to make some adjustments so that the cover would look good. Come on. really....

    April 23, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. Fitz in Texas

    "It is dishonest. It Is not journalism."

    Well, well, well, so what's new. The entire liberal media is one sided, dishonest and hasn't been journalism for years!

    April 23, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Will

    So what? Magazines do touch ups all the time, its part of their job. Often times they'll fix slight blemishes or issues with lighting or whatever. So they changed the color of his shorts, big whoop.

    When they alter it to make it look like he's committing a crime, then you can scream and yell.

    April 23, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. DB

    "Black swim suit wouldn't have shown up with a black back ground, so what's the big deal of turning it red?"

    The magazine could have changed the background color of it's cover instead.
    Seems that would have been too obvious of a solution though.

    April 23, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  12. The Other Michael in Houston

    And you wonder why the rest of the world laughs at America.First off, who cares what color the trunks are. Second, for all you puritains who are all bothered by the fact that A MAN who happens to be POTUS is walking on a beach in trunks and that's all, well get back on the Mayflower and take you butts back to where you came from. You people are just flat out morons.

    April 23, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  13. munchmom

    Who cares whether it was altered or not....the President of the United States, any President, does NOT belong on the cover of a magazine in a bathing suit! He is the leader of the free world, and while we know he is human and enjoys vacations and relaxation like the rest of us, there is no place for him on a magazine cover like this!

    April 23, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. Maria

    CNN this is not news. There is too much going on to publish such nonscense.

    April 23, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  15. Ms. Ja

    Blah @ they changed the color of his shorts ... who cares?? He is doing a fine job and you know what they say ... Michelle is being comared to Jackie O' I think he might be the next best thing to Kennedy. He is kinda sexyish.

    April 23, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  16. Aaron

    Really? This is news-worthy? Gimme a break...

    April 23, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  17. Sarty

    touch up – unethical? give me a break. You think all the photos are real?

    April 23, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  18. kingwatcher

    obama is not a regular politician, he has the skillset of a hollywood actor/celebrity, a used car salesman, a pied piper, an emperor without any clothing.

    you should EXPECT pictures of him to be carefully handled and strategically released. this is what he is all about!

    having the pics doctored is exactly how stalin would deal with the public. its not a game, its a propaganda war.

    darkening his skin/giving him a tan/making him more 'black' is just to make him look better to the pc crowd. who cares how dark his skin is?

    and to the zombies out there who are latching on to the color of his shorts, that is NOT what this is about. thx for showing you DON'T WANT to deal with real issues. that is a distraction for the weak minded who are ambivalent to the truth but need to placate their egos/worldview.

    April 23, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  19. Randy

    We have reached a point where you cannot take any picture for face value no matter where you see it. The digital age allows for editing of pictures and you cannot rely on any picture as an historical record.

    The days of photojournalists recording history are gone, and here is a perfect example of why you should never trust any image you see electronically. It is a sad statement of how far we have fallen when news needs to alter images when reporting the news and not state that the image is altered.

    April 23, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  20. felipebeach

    This is the dumbest "controversy" CNN has fabricated yet. They did NOT change anything to make Obama look better (ie: Playboy) or look worse (ie: OJ). They changed a color for design purposes; you can't have black shorts on a black background, which is what the entire cover design was molded around. This does not affect the historical record of this presidency in any way, and does not set any kind of dangerous precidence.

    Seriously...any real news happen today?

    April 23, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  21. decent american

    uhmmm, where is my 401k? will i have a job next week? will you have a job next week?

    who the hell cares about this? do you think THIS KIND OF CRAP makes us respected around the world? good grief....

    April 23, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  22. Sally

    I think this whole debate is ridiculous. He's a good looking man. Get over it!

    April 23, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  23. Sorry Pilan

    HEE HEE!!!! Look carefully at the black trunks! It needed to be doctored. You betcha!

    April 23, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  24. JP

    Oh No! This story is back again. I thought this story has gone for good, CNN has resurrected it again. Why doesn’t CNN consider a 24/7 Obama channel for the worshippers.

    April 23, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  25. DeAnn

    Oh my god... people, get over it. Are we really bickering back and forth about the color of Obama's shorts????? This is the MOST rediculous thing I have ever heard of. Isn't there anything else that CNN can report on? This was the top news story of the day?? That is unbelievable, and THAT to me is unethical. Get a life people, get over it, and report on something that really matters.

    April 23, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
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