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. truthinrock

    Another case of medieval thinking in the 21st century.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  2. JamesNYC

    This makes me sick. Yes, they have a right to not publish images of women if they so choose but they do not have a right to alter reality. If the reality of women being in power and being equal to men is offensive to you then don't use the image. In fact, don't even report on the story. Go stick your head back in the sand and study your torah and leave the world of reality to those who don't base their existence on antiquated ridiculousness. So, what if my religious First Amendment freedoms require me to photoshop images of the Waffen SS into all images... Would that be OK? No. How absurd!

    May 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  3. Sal

    Well the jews would eat pork if a store was advertising "Free" ham........

    May 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Are you calling women "swine?"

      May 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  4. GetReal

    Rabbinical law or not, that's just WRONG. If they really and truly can't post pictures of women, they should post pictures without any women in them to begin with.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  5. Me

    Funny how they got all jewy with "The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office is a malicious slander and libel." They messed up now they're ready to sue. Typical.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  6. Wellington

    If their religion prohibits them from printing photos of women, why didn't they block the women out and then put a caption which noted who was blocked out? Seems like their "explanation" is a lie. Why else would they go through such painstaking trouble of completely erasing any sign that the women were in the photo? It's, presumably, not against your religion for women to exist, right? Then acknowledge them in the text!

    May 9, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  7. OBAMA2012

    C'mon Fox news has been altering photos for years. No Biggie.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  8. hingedlwnb

    They were sorry for getting caught and exposed, not for doing it. Their apology means nothing and they are still morons.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  9. tpaine1

    What did they do with pictures of Golda Meir? And I don't know what is more disparaging – pretending women were not there, or claiming that it is not disparaging to remove women from historic moments in which they played key parts. Women exist – men exist. Man and woman were created in His image. Either show both, or neither. Especially in a picture in which there is no question of immodest or immoral behavior on anyone's part.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  10. Freethinksman

    Religion strikes again!

    May 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  11. Mike


    No they learned it from the book that was written by men, for men that taught them for whatever reason to hate women.
    If you read the Bible, you would know it's not from man.
    The Bible tells us:
    1.) All people have sinned. We are born with the sin nature that causes us to sin. We are naturally evil and wicked.
    2.) The cost or payment for sin is eternal separation from God.
    3.) Our relationship with God can only be restored by trusting in what God did for us through Jesus. It's known as GRACE; God's free gift to us; it's not something we earn or deserve.
    4.) We are to love other people as ourselves; our enemies, neighbors, wives, fellow Christians and non-Christians alike.
    5.) God sees everyone of the same value. Men have no more value to God than women. Christians or Jews are not of any more value in God's eyes than anyone else even a person who doesn't believe in God. God doesn't value the rich over the poor or visa versa.
    6.) Jesus taught we should not show favoritism for one person over another; that we are to help those that can't return that help and if we see another Christian in need and have the ability to help to do so.
    7.) In the Bible it says we are to put the needs of others before our own, pray for our enemies and do good to those who persecute us; to return evil with a blessing or good.
    8.) The Bible also contains teaching such as how we are to honor our parents, authority (government), husbands loving their wives as their own bodies and how Christ loves us.
    I could go on and on, but I hope you get the picture; these are not teaching that man would come up with.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Freethinksman

      The bible teaches us to kill and enslave, that we are predestined to a hell worse than we can imagine if we don't heap praise and worship on the creator. If humans held God to the unremarkable standards that they hold themselves to, God would be locked up for a very long time. Omnipotent or not, he surely fits anyone's definition of sociopath. I love it when religious zealots do this kind of thing. It points out the lunacy of the whole concept of a god.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • JerseyJ9

      Cherry pick much??

      May 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Shampoohorns

      I;m sure you COULD go on and on. Surprise.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Kay

      So all the millions and millions of people who died before Jesus was born went straight to hell because they couldn't be saved through him?

      May 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Found yourself an opening for pushing your vision of the truth at everyone! Ironic that you are doing it where most readers are opposing the misuse of religion and the results of bigotry, in this case against women. Nothing in what you wrote has much to do with Jews or this story. It may fit together in your head but you did not do so in what you wrote. Mostly, it is another form of bigotry saying "my truth is more true than your truth." You are both wrong.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  12. Jeff

    Sorry he got caught...

    May 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  13. ricardo

    religious idiots strike again. when did jews get a free pass on racism and bigotry?s

    May 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Kay

      They obviously don't get a free pass.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  14. BarThem

    The Fed needs to bar them from all news related releases and publicly deny their news worthy creditability. They are not as bad as Fox news.. modifying news .. SICK ..

    May 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  15. Steve

    more sorcery....

    May 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  16. Faulkner's Liver

    Was it wrong of me to blur out my ex- wife's face in the bondage photos I put on Facebook? I was not contemplating the issue of historical accuracy.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  17. David

    What would happen if Hilary Clinton or another woman became President, would they photoshop a female President out of pictures or not even print them?

    May 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Nicole

      LOL... they would just have pictures of the First Gentleman and an empty oval office.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • cykill


      May 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  18. Geri

    Just goes to show there are religious whackos in all faiths.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • John Peter

      I can't agree more to you Geri.. You are absolutely right.

      To my "blurring" friends- Wake up guys...Its 21st Century.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  19. jmr1026

    what a bunch of morons....

    May 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  20. The Token Square

    "Our photo editor realized the significance of this historic moment, and published the [edited] picture..."

    Wow! They recognize this is a picture representing a historic moment? Why is the picture representative of history? Is it not for who is there AND what they are doing? If it is only for what is being done they could have simply doctored out everyone, leaving the computers and chairs ... right? Of course who is there is as important as what is being done in any historical context!

    It is a shame that two people who were not only involved but instrumental were omitted simply because they are women. It is disgusting in my humble opinion; backwards. Perhaps this ultra-orthodox group will consider me guilty of "malicious slander and libel" for believing that they treat women as 2nd class and inferior, truly less than men. All I can say is actions speak much louder than words.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Extraordinarily well said. ANY religion that is this foolishly backwards, should really stop and re-examine their core beliefs, as they are obviously deeply flawed.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      How is this different from the way radical Muslims treat women? Like they do not exist. Like they could not do anything worthwhile.

      What I do not understand is why they even published it if they could not follow the rules set down by the White House? Is Brighton Beach a severing nation? I would like to see them have to publish a series of articles on important women with pictures. Or, come right out and say this is not a News Paper. It is a religious rag that does not deserve to be given such photos and stories in future. This picture, edited, is a lie. If all Jews were edited out of History all heck would break loose. Maybe it would be acceptable for White Supremists to use it in their papers with the president removed.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      That should read "sovereign" Not severing.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:49 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.