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. Neuroperson

    It looks like they gave him a big crotch too, and clearly he is not well endowed. Maybe thats why he is such a socialist dictator? To compensate for the power he doesnt have?

    April 23, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. MikQuick

    Ethical is ethical and is not subject to, "to what degree we were unethical" – thats a Cheney excuse. The Washingtonian is now the Inquirer, the Star, the that is what those joke and entertainment papers do. Journalism reports accuratley – period.

    April 23, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. S Callahan

    I agree, this is total disrespect to the office of the Presidency and to the President. These are personal , not for public, pics. There is a boundary that must be respected.

    April 23, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. def

    No surprise.

    Howard Kurtz, a favorite "guest" on FoxNews, will criticise any coverage of Obama that isn't derogatory and inflamatory.

    Kurtz is just trying to build up his cred's with the right-wingers and play up to his wife who is a successful consultant to right-wing clients.


    April 23, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  5. Mari( maybe one of my comments will be posted)

    Dear God, spare us from tabloid news!

    CNN......... there are SO many crucial issues for us to discuss in your blogs, please, spare us from tabloid stories!

    April 23, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. George

    There are no journalists in this country, we only have entertainers posing as journalists. Most of them are very shallow and have no substance in their reporting.

    April 23, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. S.M

    I noticed that his skin tone was much lighter in the first photo. If he's on vacation with his family than the media should give them some privacy and not post their photos in magazines.

    Most people have complained that he shoudln't be swimming in trunks, but what else is he supposed to swim in- his suit?

    April 23, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. KLK

    I think he looks hot!!! Swoon!!!

    April 23, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. Hottie

    He is intelligent, and super fine!!!

    April 23, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. ncpinetree

    It's not the swim suit that is the problem. Why did they feel the need to darken his skin color?

    April 23, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. NL

    Maybe I'm being a prude, but I think that type of photo of President Obama in his swim shorts should not be on the cover of a national magazine. He has a wife and young daughters, and I think it is inappropriate to print such a cover without his permission; however, of course, if paparazzi took it, no permission will be asked. I'm also getting tired of seeing all manner of advertising and publications (books, magazine, plates, pins, posters, etc.) "pimping" the POTUS and his family to boost sales. It's tiresome.

    April 23, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Thanks to all the Omamawhiners I'm sure the magazine will sell many more copies than it would have otherwise. Since this is the objective of the magazine (sell more), I'd say it was a good strategy. The added bit of annoying Obama supporters is just gravey.

    April 23, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. Tweetie, FL

    This is minor, move on CNN.

    The photo showed a vibrant healthy young president. President Obama is vibrant, healthy and young. No news, move on.

    April 23, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  14. Just Sad

    "While the alternations of this picture might seem to some people to be kind of minor..."
    Really? Thankfully, we do not have such well-balanced people in the media.

    April 23, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  15. Kevin

    This is today's journalism. Do whatever you want to sell copy. That is all that matters, sell copy. There are no ethics anymore. This is not responsible journalism, it is all about obtaining as many dollars as possible. The magazine is lying and is too worthless to admit it, besides, who buys this crap anyway? I'll tell you, people that should not be allowed to vote, drive, and breed.

    April 23, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  16. barking republican ankle biters

    Howard Kurtz will still be a nobody the rest of his life,just like Limbaugh wont be remembered in a hundred years as nothing more than a spineless barking ankle biter.

    April 23, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. Robbie

    This is just hilarious! Sometimes in graphic and print design you make decisions about color contrasts. It's really as simple as that. Think about what you are saying: "The magazine is being dishonest...ABOUT THE COLOR OF PRESIDENT OBAMA'S BATHING SUIT. Absolutely laughable!

    April 23, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  18. Who's Complaining

    I wish I was built like that that. Our president is buffed!

    April 23, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  19. PJ

    It is shameful for the Washingtonian to do that. I will never purchase that magazine again.

    April 23, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. Christopher

    Considering all the conspiracy theories floating that the President is a socialist or a communist, artificially giving him red shorts on a magazine cover is actually enough to present misleading commentary, if subliminal. It's a significant change that goes beyond a mere airbrush. If the clothes the photo subject wore do not match the desired page layout, the page layout should have been chosen to work with the true subject – not the other way around. To suggest it had to change so they could have a black background on the cover is a weak argument. The magazine cover did not have to be black. Perhaps they were they trying to make commentary that Washington is "black" now in doing so?

    It's a silly thing to nit pick on, but where do you draw the line – first changing the color of the presidents clothes, next adding or removing a flag pin lapel, next giving him a Thug Life tattoo...

    April 23, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  21. Matt

    Tabloids do not equal respectable news sources. Although lately respectable news sources also do not equal respectable news sources.

    April 23, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. Rose

    It is obvious that they enhanced his bulge, that is why they changed the color of the suit.

    April 23, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. Alan

    I understand why it was done. I'm an advertising designer. I just got done doing something similar for a client just a few minutes ago. They had their picture taken with an old business sign in the background that was the former occupier of their new place. We removed it so that there wouldn't be any confusion over the new tenants of the location.

    There is no intent to deceive with Obama's pic. They had an intended design layout and the black trunks would have "disappeared" against the black background making the picture look odd. Now if they changed what Obama was carrying or doing, that would be different.

    I will concede that they could have opted to change the background color instead, but for whatever reason, they wanted to maintain the integrity of the design they conceived before hand.

    His skin tone also looks different, but that could be due to offset press variables and not an intended outcome. YMMV.

    April 23, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  24. Seth

    What does this have to do with the price of tea, he is suppose to be president not a model on the cover of a magazine, who cares. Let this idiot run this country into the ground like he has been doing the weenie.

    April 23, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  25. keeth in california

    Still inappropriate, the magazine should be ashamed. No ethnics, no respect, no tact.

    NC - no class (as Fat Albert would always say).

    April 23, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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