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. Bugs

    And this is different from fundamentalist Islam's treatment of women...how?

    May 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • vasechek

      fundamentalist islam makes sure women in such positions can never be photographed again by physically removing them. still see no difference?

      May 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  2. Adam

    All I can say is oy gevalt.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  3. DrJStrangepork

    Why would a newspaper see fit to alter an image like this? If the paper didn't want to put a picture of a woman out, it should not have ran with this picture. They could have tightened up on Obama only or Obama and Biden. Cropping an image is one thing but photo-shopping people out of an authenticate image is just ridiculous for a newspaper.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  4. jschau

    Remember everyone religion can only do right.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  5. rafael bandito

    What a horrible Photoshop job haha...or maybe I should say Microsoft Paint job.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  6. Dgh

    More religious nonsense.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  7. Enitan

    What a crock of an excuse. that is the most blatant lie i have ever heard. Not a single one of the men were omitted just the 2 women? WOW. United States of America in 2011. What a jerk.

    It was deliberate and anyone that thinks otherwise needs to be committed with a straight jacket and have the brain examined.

    I can almost assure everyone that the two women omitted are each more educated, intelligent and much more accomplished than this ignorant. bigot and totally stupid boozo

    May 9, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  8. jack

    I wish they all just move to Israel.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • vasechek

      these fine folk don't recognize israel...

      May 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  9. EricD

    Oy vey! Just crop the picture instead changing history if you are worried about religious freedom.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  10. biohodge

    I hope that the Secretary of State remembers this little slight the next time aid to Israel is discussed.

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

      biohodge wrote: "I hope that the Secretary of State remembers this little slight the next time aid to Israel is discussed."

      Many of these ultra-religious nutcases are opposed to the existence of the State of Israel... Presumably because the Messiah hasn't arrived...

      May 9, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      I seek enlightenment. Who are these ultra religious types who are opposed to the existence of Israel?" I was raised by ultra right wing Baptists who want Israel to exist so they can go there and rebuild the temple and bring on the End Times. I had the misfortune of having to serve at dinners of the Christian Friends of the Jews group and had my fill of left overs and sermons on rebuilding the temple. There are fundamentalist Christians today working towards that goal. I believe they are building a Christian theme park in Israel. There is, in fact, no excuse for seeing Palestine as belonging to Jews unless you believe that God gave them the land after telling them to kill every living thing there before moving in.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  11. Cheryl

    It seems that religion has gotten in the way of logic...surprise, surprise. I suspect It is the interpretation of the religious doctrine that indicates women should not be shown in photographs...not the actual religion...I sure hope so.

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

      Cheryl wrote: "It seems that religion has gotten in the way of logic..."

      I have news for you: religion has never had anything to do with logic...

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

    Religion is nothing more than a freak show whose delusional clowns are taking the rest of us down with them.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  13. Rob Hannigan

    Well it looks retarded where the gap is were Audrey Tomason is suppose to be as well as an empty chair are you kidding me. Every inch of that room would have been full to anyone that has a brain.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  14. loaba

    Jewish Taliban. Well, that's just awesome... The would would be a better place sans organized religion.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  15. Dave

    The Jews hate blacks as well...why didnt they cut Obama out of the pic?

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

      congrats, your comment is on par with what that paper did

      May 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  16. Ralphie

    We wouldn't want our women to see other women in positions of power would we...

    May 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  17. capcore1

    sounds like these guys are a splinter branch of islam

    May 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Sort of but it is the other way around. Judaism led to both Christianity and Islam. Everyone comes down from Abraham. Read the Koran and you will see many of the same stories as in the OT with different details.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  18. Marie

    Christians changed the role that Mary Magdalene played in Jesus's life, didn't they? Today's muslims act like the christians of that time. That's why today's christians need to change and interpret the bible to fit modern days.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Luch

      what factual evidence can you provide to back up your statement regrding "Chritians changing the role of Mary Magdalane"

      May 9, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Ceri

      Yeah, come on, Marie, where are your facts?

      May 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • needNewGov

      What in the world does your comment have to do with this news article? You sound a touch defensive bringing in the early Christians and Muslims.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      The books in the New Testament, as it stands since the 4 th Century, were cherry picked by Constantine and his captive bishops for political reasons having to do with controlling the populace and getting rid of all the mayhem between the many, many views of Jesus and his message. The Nag Hammad has about 52 books that were rejected by a pagan Emperor and politically motivated bishops and were contemporary with the NT books left to us. The people who believed the entire teaching and not just that by Constantine were hunted down by the politically acceptable Christians and murdered. Their holy books were destroyed. The Nag Hammadi is believed to be a hidden cache by a Coptic Christian priest.

      That is where you will find the books that reference Jesus and Mary Magdalene. I was raised in as far a right wing church as is possible without putting on the swastika. Baptist. They honestly believed that the King James version is the one the early Christians used and it could not be changed. Literally, they believed angels speak Elizabethan English and it would be blasphemy to go back to the original languages and translate it from there. That is the same kind of bigoted ignorance that keeps people from revisiting all the writings about Jesus.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Bunk

      It says right in the Bible that Jesus loved Mary the most...

      May 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  19. Sal

    Can the jews be always right and the Palestinians be always wrong? Not in my book they are not. 

    May 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  20. Billium

    That makes them as trustworthy as the tabloids.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Wikkid

      Great. Now Jews are showing Muslims how to mistreat women and get away with it in the US because of the Right to Speech and the Right to Religeous beliefs. Thank god this didn't work for the Honor Killing Run down by a Muslim of his daughter earlier this year.

      May 9, 2011 at 4:55 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.