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May 9th, 2011
12:17 PM ET

Religious paper apologizes for erasing Clinton from iconic photo

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Faith has outweighed fact at Di Tzeitung, a Hasidic newspaper based in Brooklyn, New York.

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish publication ran a doctored copy of the iconic “Situation Room Photo” last Friday – you know, the one taken of President Barack Obama and his national security team during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

Scrubbed from the picture: the two women in the room.

It’s as if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with her hand clasped over her mouth, and Audrey Tomason, director of counterterrorism, weren’t there and weren’t part of history.

The newspaper later apologized for violating White House instructions against altering photos.

"We should not have published the altered picture, and we have conveyed our regrets and apologies to the White House and to the State Department," the newspaper said in a statement Monday.

The original photo, taken by White House photographer Pete Souza, shows Clinton and Tomason.

The news of this broke Friday when Shmarya Rosenberg, 52, posted a quick piece on his blog Failed Messiah.

Rosenberg, of St. Paul, Minnesota, said he wasn't surprised by the photo doctoring and only posted something about it because "it was a slow news day."

A former ultra-Orthodox Jew, Rosenberg has been writing about the ultra-Orthodox community - mostly about crime and what he dubbed "strange media" - for seven years. He said the newspapers in that community have become "increasingly strange with their censorship of women's faces and women's bodies" over the past few years.

He said readers of the Yiddish-language paper used to see photos of rabbis with their wives and that there was then a time when the women were blurred. Now, they're just not there.

In the doctored photo published by Di Tzeitung, Clinton and Tomason are gone.

But in a written statement issued Monday afternoon by Di Tzeitung, the newspaper said that its decision to leave women out of photos is religiously mandated and that the right to do so is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

"The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. That has precedence even to our cherished freedom of the press," the statement said.  "Publishing a newspaper is a big responsibility, and our policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board.

"Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging women, which is certainly never our intention," it continued. "We apologize if this was seen as offensive."

But offensive it was to Robin Bodner, executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

At JOFA, "we educate and advocate for increased ritual, spiritual and leadership opportunities for women within Jewish law. And sometimes we get the feeling that men wish women were not even in the room," Bodner told CNN in a written statement.

"This picture by [an ultra-Orthodox] newspaper goes a step further by revising history to remove important women leaders from the historic room in which they were present.  It reminds us of how much work is still to be done!"

Within Judaism, there are a number of denominations - Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and modern Orthodox, to name some - and ultra-Orthodox Judaism accounts for just one branch of the faith. And within all of these branches, matters of Jewish law and obligation are often debated.

It's worth noting that the White House included its standard instruction with the photo caption when the image was released:

This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

"We're not going to comment" on this matter, a White House senior official told CNN.

The leadership at Di Tzietung, though, apologized for breaking official White House photo rules.

"Our photo editor realized the significance of this historic moment, and published the picture, but in his haste he did not read the 'fine print' that accompanied the picture, forbidding any changes," the newspaper said in its Monday statement.

Furthermore, Di Tzeitung noted the Orthodox community's respect for Clinton, who served as a senator in New York for eight years.

"She won overwhelming majorities in the Orthodox Jewish communities ... because the religious community appreciated her unique capabilities and compassion to all communities," the statement said. "The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office is a malicious slander and libel."

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: History • Judaism • Women

soundoff (1,711 Responses)
  1. Paul

    CNN only sees powerful women ... Notice that CNN did not mention that the other woman in the room was also deleted from the newspaper photo. In a way, CNN did not see her, so it did not see that she was taken out.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Joe

      The article clearly states that TWO women were removed from the photo.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Mainstreet Citizen

      Maybe it was a late correction but they do indeed mention the other woman in the room being removed.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Jeffrey Root

      "Scrubbed from the picture: the two women in the room." Did you read the article?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Better than Paul

      You should read the article – it says that TWO women were erased from the picture. Comprehend much?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • jj

      Read the article.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Chumlee

      Ok, Paul, for arguments sake, what other 2 women were in the original picture?

      I have looked at the picture and can't see anymore.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Da Professor

      Paul -

      You mis-speak the facts. Both women in the photo were mentioned in the article by CNN

      May 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Shamrock6

      Reading Comprehension:

      ( ) Pass

      (X) Fail

      May 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • bon

      ummm...hello! they specifically mention both women. Read the above article again before you start attacking something.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Joseph

      Hey Dumb Dumb re-read the article it Clearly points out that "Audrey Tomason, director of counterterrorism" was clearly taken out of the picture. Nice try though.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • RU Blind?

      what you can't read? Try again: "It’s as if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with her hand clasped over her mouth, and Audrey Tomason, director of counterterrorism, weren’t there and weren’t part of history." Both women mentioned.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Bob

      Did you read the story before you post the comment?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • oldguy

      The article reports: "Scrubbed from the picture: the two women in the room. It’s as if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with her hand clasped over her mouth, and Audrey Tomason, director of counterterrorism, weren’t there and weren’t part of history."

      May 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • beth

      Reread the article. It says "scrubbed from the picture: the two women in the room."

      May 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Vicki

      Guess you skipped this paragraph Paul.

      "It’s as if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with her hand clasped over her mouth, and Audrey Tomason, director of counterterrorism, weren’t there and weren’t part of history."

      May 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • stormeagle

      your blog has a link if we want to 'report abuse". Can we have a link to "report astonishing stupidity"?

      May 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  2. Keksi

    They forgot to remove ghostly image of devil on wall behind president.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  3. AIZEN

    religion is very scared of women, s-ex, anything that got to do with reproduction in tyhe natural way or just human pleasure...but funny enough those are the people who abuse kids ahahahahahaha

    May 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  4. Chimi

    These people should just go to hall!!! Religious fanatics are what's wrong with humanity no matter what religion they follow

    May 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  5. Bob

    This is why photographic evidence is no longer allowed in the courts. You should not re-write history. The paper should not have used the photo at all. It should also have been noted when it was used that it was altered.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  6. Elias

    What is it with the religious and their female issues? Grow the hell up!

    May 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  7. AIZEN

    ridiculous to the max...wow...i laughed this morning at work..thank you CNN...people like this still exist in 2011???

    May 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  8. Jim

    What surprises me is that in this internet-enabled age where nothing goes unnoticed, this paper tried to pull this over on it's readers. I suppose this means that 1. The paper doesn't consider it's readership terribly bright or 2. Indeed, the readers of this paper aren't terribly bright.

    Yay, religious fanatics. Good luck with that.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  9. TripleA

    If the paper wanted to remove everything s-ly suggestive, they should have removed the men, and left the two women.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  10. edvhou812

    And the part with Clinton convering her mouth is the best part. It shows the gravity of the moment. The rest of it is just a bunch of old guys watching stoically.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • f

      In the original photo, the entire room was watching "The Apprentice" and Clinton was aghast at who got fired !

      May 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Coaster

      According to Sec. Clinton herself, she was covering her mouth because of a cough and not because of the "gravity of the moment."

      May 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • pazke

      Did you hear her tell the Italians that she thought she was actually suppressing a cough and not gasping at the image? Sort of takes the oomph out of her expression.

      May 9, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  11. Brother

    Well i know I got wood, so maybe the paper was right?

    May 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Really?

      Wow! That was so wrong!! LOL!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • plloyd

      Thanks for the laugh Brother

      May 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  12. Chicmusique

    Me Tarzan. Me erase Jane.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • tngirl

      Hi Larious!

      May 9, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  13. Mark

    Glad to see that its not only extremist Muslims in the media who have issues with women. Thanks for calling out this Jewish group as well. Amazing what bigotry is done in the name of religion, and there is a pattern here folks – blacks, women, gays, other religious groups. Some one always has to be excluded so those that think they are in "special club' can be right with God? There should be pyschological term for this and why people feel a need to do this.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • gor76

      I know what you mean. There is a Baptist Bible college near me that doesn't allow women enroll in the Master of Education in
      School Administration program. Men only.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  14. boochnaka

    This is exactly why people who live their entire lives thinking that they are "holier than thou" just because they follow some religion that everyone else doesn't are stupid people. I guess "hasidic" is just another word that means mentally retarded.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  15. SicKnd

    Jews. Cant live with em, cant live without em.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Jesus

      The irony is that Jewish women are far from being meek and second class. They are VERY vocal. Well. where are they in all this? The ones I know would rip the beards off these Neanderthals.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  16. upstateBill

    When you print a LIE the whole paper is a LIE. In this case it shows the Neanderthal thinking of these people

    May 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  17. Lisa Kaiser

    Altering hsitory is wrong–no matter who does it.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  18. Rev. Rick

    Well, that should build lots of trust with the newspaper's readers. Did they think no one would notice? But, oh, I get it. The readers only want to read what they want to believe anyway, so why bother with what's true. Fundamentalist and ultraconservative religions are on their way out, only they will be the last ones to know it's happening. Which is fine by me.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Catholic Republican

      @Howard, Who cares? I seem to recall something in the con-st-itu-tion requiring religious freedom. Even if Obama is muslim its not against the law and should not be to get over it already.

      May 9, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • sue

      This is for Howard: SHUT THE "F" UP

      May 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • gor76

      wah-wah-wah-waaaaaaahhhhhhhh
      http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/ramadan.asp

      May 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • ana

      HOWARD, did you take your medication in the morning? Get well soon.

      May 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Jake

      And him being a Muslim would matter how exactly? Please go back to the cave you came from and stop using the public library's precious internet.

      May 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Joe Gerken

      HOWARD IS A RAVING LUNATIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      May 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Aamir

      This is infact a reply to Howard.

      Please get your facts straight. I am a Muslim and the month of Ramadan is not going to be here till August. What are you exactly talking about

      May 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • How Stupid Are You

      @Catholic Republican
      Obama is not a Muslim. This has been all over the news. You must be living under a rock. The fact that you got that wrong destroys all of your credibility, so just stop posting now.

      May 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Really?

      @HOWARD – I just had to look this up. It would have been nice if you did too. Ramadan does not come around in 2011 until August!!!! Please, if you want to win your battle, then you have to stop spreading misinformation. Check your facts before you post.

      May 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Dcision

      Actually it will. The people who read that paper probably think it was a great idea — which tells you what you need to know about the people who read that paper.

      They are "faith" people — actual facts and reality mean nothing to them.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Catholic Republican

      @How Stupid Are You, you said

      "@Catholic Republican
      Obama is not a Muslim. This has been all over the news. You must be living under a rock. The fact that you got that wrong destroys all of your credibility, so just stop posting now."

      After I said "@Howard, Who cares? I seem to recall something in the con-st-itu-tion requiring religious freedom. Even if Obama is muslim its not against the law and should not be to get over it already."

      First I did not say he was muslim I said even if he was. I really don't care, which if you had bothered to read past the my handle you would have realized.

      Second in my post I was obviously taking the side of Obama and stating that religion should NOT be a determinate in who is elected preisident.

      Fianlly if you can't bother to read a post enough to have a clue what it says prehaps you should change your handle to "How Stupid Am I" or just stop posting.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  19. John Richardson

    Se-x-ually suggesting? This is sheer knuckle-dragging idiocy, right here in the US of A.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • f

      I guess you've never been to Brooklyn, These Hasidic Jews are as wacky as the Muslims. No wonder they get along so well in the Mid-East. Forget the "Saturday Night Fever" Brooklyn you thought you knew. Drop by the Williamsburg section on a Jewsih holiday. Yikes !

      May 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • wordnew

      Hey f... wacky? yes, certainly, but you don't have to watch your neck...

      May 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  20. tommas

    No, I don't believe it... Religious folks trying to change history, that would never happen.

    May 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Dcision

      The religious nuts in this religion are every bit as twisted and sick as the nuts in other religions.

      May 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.