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. Joe

    That's Jews for ya...

    May 9, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  2. James

    To my knowledge, their holy texts do not ban women from appearing in pictures. This is a specific sect of Judaism which thinks they can better interpret what their God wants than their Torah can. In other words, freaks who are unhappy with their religion, so they modifed it to fit their own desires. Much like how the Muslim religion was altered from Christianity because a sect of Christians thought they could design a better version of Christianity that would give them more power over those they felt beneath them. Religion sucks because it offers control and influence over others. Something which corrupt people seek all too often.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Kevin

      "God hereby demands that you Photoshop photos, specifically ones of the digital kind, removing all women from official White House photos."

      Torah, 400 BC

      May 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  3. Jack Mehoff

    I almost choked on my cream cheese and lox bagel while reading this.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  4. wordnew

    If only Hillary was photoshopped out of every story she's associated with. Much easier on my eyes...

    May 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Tamara

      So, you would rather going through life without all the facts....typical idiot.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  5. Paul http://www.youtube.com/ny007ny

    This is why people hate religion because it is all a bunch of backwards thinking people. They make all religious people look stupid when they do something like this. So you have yourselves to blame when people hate on religion. They have good reason to .

    May 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  6. יולי

    א באנדע משוגעים
    מכאפט זיך ארויף אויף א בינטל שטרוי

    May 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  7. Lewy

    This, after Clinton had to crawl on hands and knees to get the jew vote in her Senate campaign? So typical of the jew.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • vasechek

      jews are a pretty diverse bunch, but how very typical of clinton...

      May 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  8. MB

    a) Isn't a picture made by an employee of the federal government in the public domain unconditionally?
    b) Crazy Jews.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  9. Thank God for God

    God strikes again or stupid people strike in the name of God.

    Fools were all sorts of hats under hats are all manner of fools.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  10. John


    "There will never be peace on earth as long as there is a single christian, muslim or jew left. Death to all three arms of the blood god!"

    Peace through killing all you disagree with? Irony much?

    May 9, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  11. Julia Sherpa

    HA! And you STILL have a job @CNN ?
    As president said – Justice has been done! NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT! Matter closed – don't divert attention from more important issues to sea burial. Of course, now you have your LIFETIME to talk about it. Get a REAL job!\

    May 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  12. Inappropriate Allah Muhammad O'Reilly

    "but in his haste he did not read the 'fine print' that accompanied the picture.."

    Oh, THAT'S the problem here? Copyright?

    *#&$ you. (^*# you right in the face.

    You and your invisible sky-wizard are useless and I hope you die.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  13. lisa smith

    1281 49th Street
    Brooklyn, NY 11219
    Fax: 718-854-5282

    May 9, '11

    The White House released a picture showing the President following "live" events of the apprehension of Osama Bin Laden, last week Sunday. Also present in the Situation Room were various high-ranking government and military officials including Secretary of State, the honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton and another female participant.

    Our photo editor realizing the significance of this historic moment, published the picture, but in his haste, did not read the "fine print" that accompanied the picture, forbidding any changes and published a picture omitting the female participants in the room.
    Because we wanted to honor the President and our armed forces for the historic significance of the moment, we opted to publish the photo, but without the women included, as is our long standing editorial policy.

    Our editorial policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board and because of laws of modesty, does not allow for the publishing of photos of women.

    The readership of the Tzeitung believe that women should be appreciated for who they are and what they do, not for what they look like, and the Jewish laws of modesty are an expression of respect for women, not the opposite.

    The allegations by some, that Orthodox Judaism denigrates women or do not respect women in public office,is a malicious slander and libel. The Jewish religion does not allow for discrimination based or gender, race, etc.

    The current Secretary of State, the Honorable Hillary R. Clinton, was for eight years, a Senator representing New York State with great distinction. She won overwhelming majorities in the Orthodox Jewish communities in her initial campaign in '00, and when she was re-elected in '06 it was because the religious community, among others, appreciated her unique capabilities, talents and compassion for all.

    We respect all government officials. We even have special prayers for the welfare of our Government and the government leaders.

    In retrospect, we apologize for any misunderstanding that this might have caused. 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.

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

      poor excuse and poor sport hiding behind the Rabbinical Board. there were a few ways not to print pictures of the women without twisting the truth.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • The Automated Religion Turd Detector


      May 9, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Hampton

      please tell me that you put in print in the article that the 2 deleted women were present in the room but deleted from the photo for modesty reasons...??!!

      May 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Caledoniaz

      Surely, those conditions apply equally to men? Perhaps they should remove everyone from the photo and leave an empty room so that we don't confuse any of the mens' accomplshments with what they look like either.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Paul Battis

      Leo Panetta, CIA head, has come out and stated that they were not watching the killing of Bin Ladin. That there was not a close circuit tv hook up in place, that this was a staged photo of them, pretending to be watching the killing of Bin Ladin. Clinton later stated that her hand is over her mouth because of her allergies. Its a fake, staged photo. That is the story. You cutting out Clinton is even dumber that the original story they gave. Obama lies when saying they killed Osama. No body, no photos, no dna. What is wrong with journalism when they are allowed to make such statements unchallenged? Wake up now.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Elmo

      psst Paul,
      It's Leon. I watched closeD circuit TV once.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Really!? Really...

      Omitting women is your policy!? Sorry "Lisa", you've been seriously brainwashed if you agree with that policy. I don't believe in being hateful but you should re-think the control these men have over you. Religion was created by men for men to rule over all others, period. Until women have equal control in every arena, including religion, our planet will constantly go through violent change.

      May 9, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  14. Alex in Minneapolis

    I would so sue their behinds!

    May 9, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  15. Martin

    Freedom of religion might give you the authority to remove the women from the picture, but your responsibilities as journalists reporting the truth mandates you to leave the picture unaltered, and to report the FACTS.

    If you're taking the women out of the picture, you're altering your readers' perceptions of what went on.

    If you still follow an outmoded religious doctrine that women can't be treated the same as men, I'm glad I'm an atheist.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  16. Funny guy

    Why not just make the ultra-Orthodox Jewish women wear burkas.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  17. mike kerns

    It is clear why our founding father's made religion seperate from state.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  18. Duni

    The editor of that picture knows exactly what Clinton looks like. To edit such a historical picture and to MAKE SURE to edit the Secretary of State just shows how chauvinistic they are making themselves out to be. There is nothing immodest about the way Clinton is dressed along with the other woman in the background. That paper did it on purpose to make it look like only men belonged in that room. Regardless of religion, to do that to a picture of that magnitude is to twist history.

    Any person that reads their paper might as well not believe a thing they write because they will twist that as well.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  19. Chris

    and these are the chosen people? oy vey...

    May 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  20. styx

    Sounds like time to review your so-called "laws of modesty". Because it sounds a little archaic to me . How about go back and publish that newspaper on some papyrus? You'll definitely sell more of it.

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

      There is nothing about this in the Torah. It is a man made law.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Mr C

      It is unfortunate what the editors did. Of course, you have the freedom, but you have journalistic responsibility to telling your readers the truth, not something doctored through your interpretation of religious edict. If that is the case, then are you any different from the Talibans? You can't have both ways. Religion is a private matter, don't bring it to politics. That is why we have so much trouble in the world. All ultra conservative religious ideas, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim Jewish and Christians are to be shunned,.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:26 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.