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. yuri

    BHO looks muscular and sinewy, kinda like Daniel Craig. If it's displayed without evidence of ethical essays (if needed), it will be an eloquent example of an effigy like enlargement that'll efface everybody involved in this endeavor. Press freedom shoulda limits without endangerin' freedom.

    April 23, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  2. troubled

    So what else is new? Everything obammy does is doctored, spinned to make him look good, etc.

    April 23, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  3. arithmetic is liberal

    Sex sells, and people have very little shame in this economy when it comes to making a dollar. They recolored the trucks red so they could add more depth to his stimulus package.

    Also, from a distance, black shorts on a black background would have looked like a "censored" blackout from a distance. Then there really would have been a hullabaloo. I don't understand why people would get the vapors over something so inconsequntial. I have been exposed to media all my life, this is just sunrise, sunset.

    April 23, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. Mark

    Below is a quote from a recent news article. I changed/altered one word. Just one little word. No big deal. It was just a word. Does it matter what journalists change? Of course it does. So as a journalist, you change nothing. Ever. It's called ethics.

    "Most polls have shown Obama getting fairly low marks on most of the issues he has handled so far," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

    If you don't get the point, too bad for you. And for the rest of us.

    April 23, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  5. Steve

    Hey, Fitz...you lost all credibility when you threw out the tired "liberal media" crap

    Give it a rest

    April 23, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  6. AustinGal

    Media critic Howard Kurtz must not know about magazines like Cosmopolitan, People, or Vogue. Touch-ups and minor alterations are a fact of life in the magazine business, you really don't want to see Kate Moss without the touch-ups.

    April 23, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  7. Christine

    I, for one, believe half of what I see and none of what I hear as far as what is portrayed in mainstream media.
    Maybe they airbrushed his muscles too!

    April 23, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  8. Pat

    If this is the biggest issue in your life at this moment....my congratulations! You have a fairly unchallenged existence. Some much press.....so little point.

    April 23, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. Beverly - Atlanta

    We have a sexy President. Ooo-La-La!!!!!

    April 23, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. Henry

    This really is a good picture.

    The point is that you should not change photos. It is unethical.

    To give credence to the publisher is wrong. OK, this photo turned out all right. What happens when publishers justify doctoring a photo and put someone in a bad light? Is that still all right.

    Bottom line: We should not doctor phtos. Present them as they are.

    April 23, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  11. Steph

    Does anyone really care???? BO is a disgrace whatever way you look at it....both in America and abroad.....He is the most naive arrogant president ever-–

    April 23, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. 'coiny'

    who cares?

    April 23, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  13. dc

    With all the problems we have today,,, this is NEWS??

    Oh please...

    April 23, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  14. Cliff

    I am a guy and I think he's hot. lol, just joking. Lets leave the man alone and let him do his job.

    April 23, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. EDR

    Remember what the photographer did to McCain's photos, with the blood and lighting, etc? Media will do anything to make a republican look bad, and anything to make a Democrat look better, and there is always an "excuse" when it comes to liberal bias.

    April 23, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. MD

    What a cutie. The magazine probably shouldn't have used the photo out of respect for the office but he certainly is nice to look at.

    April 23, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  17. Vic

    Kurtz says it is unethical; the magazine says it's not. There's just one question to the latter: Since we know the color of his bathing suit, whose was he wearing??? The truth is always better.

    April 23, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  18. A. Goodwin

    #1 – President Obama did not endorse the use of the photo, so for those who want to bash him – GET OVER YOURSELVES.

    #2 – President Obama was not even president when the picture was taken – almost a year ago when he was on vacation.

    #3 – For those who want to say that this is bad for America, where where you a few years back when Validimer Putin was show POSING for the camera without his shirt on!

    #4 – President Obama is by far the HOTTEST president we have had.

    April 23, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  19. J.Crobuzon

    So, what's the big deal?

    April 23, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  20. Gary

    Do we really care?

    April 23, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  21. george marple

    Gotta laugh at the folks using this to bash the "liberal media." What, pray tell, is "liberal" there? Can such people discern left-wing politics and "creeping socialism" or "communism" in the photo? Either the critics explain exactly what is "liberal" about that photo or they, the great American ignorami, should shut ... the ... hell ... up!

    April 23, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  22. Hammer

    What is the problem, every thing else that the press has represented about Obama has been either altered or false. So what the big deal about good journalism now.

    April 23, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. Jeri

    To Fizt in Texas – Journalism, there is no good Journalism anymore. The only true Journalist left in the US is Fox News who tells the truth all the time. And when they are wrong they will admit it. CNN and the rest are a bunch of jokes. They never report the truth about anything. Whenever BO looks like a fool (and he does that every single day) you never hear about it from anyone but Fox. You are so right Fizt. There is no more Journalism in the US anymore.

    April 23, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. me

    All this for some shorts? Really?

    Did they put him in Black Face? Good. Then wake me up when something important happens.

    BTW- Bush apparently was very fit as well; he had a resting heart rate of 43! If only his mental fitness could be in the same galaxy as his physical...

    April 23, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. Stacy

    Who could possibly care about this? I really don't care about seeing Obama with his shirt off (doesn't do anything for me), but give me a break.

    Doesn't he have anything to do besides go out in Washington all the time? Movies with his kids, coctail parties on Wednesday nights, etc... Doesn't he have a job???

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