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. Gary H

    This is a non-story. As a photograper virtually every photo you ever see published is "enhanced". The comments about black shorts on a black background being less visible than red is an example. I can see that there is a certain amount of sharpening and white balance/color temperature manipulation involved even from these lo-res comparisons. Once again I think the point has been missed. This is NOT a news article, it is a Magazine cover and as such they want to make it a more dramatic picture. It would be different if the flattened his waist or gave him bigger muscles.

    April 23, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  2. Ken - Denver

    And who cares???? Slow news day????

    April 23, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  3. sickofthelibs

    I care more that they are making a mockery of the office of the President. He is parading around like Putin and this is just ridiculous. munchmom said it 100% correct! This is just another reason for the world to laugh at the US, just what this administration seems to want

    April 23, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  4. Cin

    There is a difference between someone "posing" for a picture and giving the okay to have it airbrushed etc. I think it's inappropiate for the magazine to print this without Obama's consent, and they probably didn't ask for it because they knew the answer would be no.
    There will always be people out there trying to push the envelop, disrespecting others no matter the cost, and then they wonder why this country is going downhill I took a stand and refuse to buy any magazine that promotes any celebrity crap etc. It's just trash reading anymore.

    April 23, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  5. JJ

    I am so happy to hear that the Washingtonian is being called out on this atrocity. I think the mag cover is disrespectful and it should be pulled from the stands. I hope people will not buy it.

    April 23, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. Doug, New Jersey

    So censoring and attacking any and all Americans who spoke the truth about Obama's actions and what he has said was great but doctoring a picture is immoral, gotta love lib logic.

    April 23, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  7. JML

    With all that is going in (say in WDC area) CNN needs to print something like this? CRAZIE!

    April 23, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  8. Whatever Is Politically Expedient

    President Obama does not need to be re-touched. Nor do his swim trunks. It's like desecrating the flag. And yes he IS intelligent AND swexy!

    April 23, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  9. Brian

    Brandon, the problem is this isn't being presented as "graphic design" but as photo journalism. As such they should be presenting the actual image. It's not some glamour shoot.

    As for the people complaining about the president being seen in swim trunks, get over it. there's absolutely nothing wrong with him relaxing on vacation. If the paparazzi is going to take pictures he has no control over that. Geez, don't you guys have some christian fundamentalist rally to be attending rather than ranting about this?

    April 23, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. bern

    It is absolutely wrong to alter any picture of the president...or anyone else.....for a story. Theses folks are not "journalists" they are paparazzi idiots.

    April 23, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  11. hadelaide

    A long time ago, CNN was a respected news organization. Now, I don't know with all this frivolous stories. Get a life people. The man is human, the magazine did what it did to enhance its layout, and Howard Kurtz needs to get laid!

    April 23, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  12. Barbara

    They are exploiting his absolutely outrageous good looks !
    It doesn't bother me as long as his equally brilliant mind always
    takes center stage...
    That said... I think that J.F.K was subjected to the same type of photos.
    As far as I'm concerned there is no way to take away the dignity of this man or this office... That is left to right wing crazed conservatives to try to do !

    April 23, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    This really isn't a big deal. I think the President looks nice in both pics ! Yay for a little tan ! hehe!

    April 23, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  14. Tony in Maine

    Where was Kurtz when BushCo was planting lies to sell their War to Enrich Halliburton.

    Rhetorical question – he and the rest of the media, legitimate and not, were hiding under the covers, terrified that Ari or Karl or label them traitors for daring to question the President in a "time of war."

    April 23, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  15. Charlie in Maine

    The press gave George W. a free pass to causing a civil war in Iraq where none existed. And THIS is labeled as "unethical". Man you're getting very picky now aren't you.

    April 23, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  16. Good Taste Shouldn't Fade With The Times

    When evaluating whether something is appropriate or not, whether some phrase should be uttered or not, it is often helpful to substitute some other person in place of the subject ....

    This picture is not appropriate regardless of the way it was "doctored".

    Would most people think a photo of George Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy ... shot surrepticiously with a ginormous telephoto lens ... be appropriate for a magazine cover? I dont' think so. Therefore, Mr. Obama shouldn't be on this cover in this manner.

    April 23, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. Doris Ky.

    One magazine gets heat for altering the Presidents picture another gets the heat for not altering Palins picture be real people give a rest.

    April 23, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  18. Patricia in Las Vegas

    How silly, talk about a NON-issue. He is a great President and it is nice to see a leader that is in great shape. Even though I would still respect him if he were pasty and stocky. One should never gripe about the perks...great man, great President' and extremely easy on the eyes!!!

    April 23, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  19. Lisa

    Our President is good looking.
    This is a Non-Story

    April 23, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  20. SLM

    When will all this slobbering over Obama end. This is how he won the election..................media presenting what they want you to see and not the facts!!

    April 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  21. alkren

    man the airbrush the cover of every magazine sold today...thats tampering too. get over it! what losers!

    April 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  22. Obama Victim

    perhaps they could do something to make him not look like an idiot

    April 23, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  23. David

    Its not like they gave him boobs or something. Let it go.....

    April 23, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  24. No Hillary = No Obama

    The only "transformation" Obama will effect is on glossy magazine covers.

    April 23, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  25. Work for a living...

    I like him this way. I think that should be his rule, look good and keep his mouth shut. Let's vote on that !

    April 23, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
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