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. Gerry Evans

    I would say to those (men) of that faith, "if you are so untrustworthy reguarding women, perhaps you have NO faith in YOUR faith". It's a shame that men of that faith trust themselves so little, they don't even think they can look at the picture of a woman and not be consumed with lust. What type of human are they? And IF their god is so almighty and powerful don't they believe that same god can deliver them from the lust they are afraid they will feel? Why then do they even believe in their "god" ? I think it's all a lame excuse to degrade and persacute women of the world. And all in the name of GOD...

    May 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  2. VR


    May 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  3. simplify

    Great lesson for the children, our future leaders – if you don't like reality, just ignore it or erase it.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  4. Mark

    This is a perfect example that makes me glad I switched to atheism in my 20's. The right to practice your religion freely does NOT give you the right to distort facts.

    Reminds me how Gallileo got excommunicated for daring to suggest the sun doesn't rotate around the earth.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  5. Dorianmode

    Women are evil.
    Mary was only acceptable, (clean enough), if she was a vi-r-g-in, and "im-mac-ula-tely" co-nc-eived.
    Mary Magdalene was turned into a w-h-or-e.
    Joy Behar had only MEN on her show discussing the death of OBL.
    Nothing new here.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  6. USMCBeth

    This isn't the first doctored photo in the name of PC. How about the three firemen at Ground Zero who raised the American Flag ala the iconic Flag Raising by Marines on Iwo Jima. The photo itself was powerful but after politicians and their PC ways got hold of it the historic photo of three white firefighters they were now white, hispanic and black.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  7. VietArmyVet

    Just goes to show how stupid and pathetic religion, not just Muslim, but all religion is.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  8. RSH

    Why do so many religions treat women as second class people?

    May 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Mark

      Because religious texts are written by men.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  9. DCBuckeye

    When I saw the headline, I figured it was because they are not bedazzled like lovesick schoolboys (as the rest of the news media is) over this massively overhyped and immensely underqualified woman who has managed to carve out quite a little career for herself by living off the reflected glory of the man she married.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Nice to see confirmation that the Hillary Haters have not left the country yet...

      May 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • DCBuckeye

      Don't hate her . . . Just see through all of the smoke & mirrors.

      May 9, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  10. Cascadoux


    May 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  11. chris

    Friggin hebes.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  12. shastadaisy

    There should be a law against something like this. It is not mere archaic ideas to my mind. It's criminal.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      No one should be allowed to take one piece of propaganda and turn it into a different piece of propaganda.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  13. John Sharp

    I am so tired of religion getting involved with society. They continue to provide no value with their simple minded backwards way of looking at life.
    Just one more example, but they are all the same.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  14. August West

    This even after she bought their vote by having her husband pardon the Rabbi of New Square for in prison for embezzling federal funds? Ingrates!

    May 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  15. Caledoniaz

    You can be sure you have created God in your own image when it turns out he hates all the same people you do.
    Anne Lamott

    May 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Priceless, thank you.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • simplify

      Absolutely perfect! Thank you.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  16. willofva

    What would these guys be publishing if Hillary Clinton had won the Presidency and Obama was the Secretary of State? The state of the union with picture of an empty podium???

    May 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • salvatore

      Goooood question.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  17. JW

    "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."
    Denis Diderot (1713-1784)

    Applies to rabbis, mullahs, and the rest of the sick crew.

    May 9, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • John Sharp

      I love this quote. Thanks for this one.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  18. dianne

    Why is it always the modesty of women? Let's talk about the modesty of men. Just writing shows how stupid the whole concept is, whether men or women. What next, burkas?

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

      I agree with Dianne:

      "Why is it always the modesty of women? Let's talk about the modesty of men. Just writing shows how stupid the whole concept is, whether men or women. What next, burkas?"

      Women should be able to be every bit as modest and immodest as men are. It's their choice, not the choice of the media to alter photos, which is contrary to journalistic principles of objectivism. Clearly, the Orthodox Jewish publication is not a journalistic resource, rather it is a source of religious propaganda. File it along with all of the other "religious" dogma out there that hides behind freedom of religion in order to serve their prejudices and denigrations.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  19. Reality

    Two words: "Significantly Stupid"!!!!!!!!

    May 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  20. OklahomaSkunk

    In the photo it looks like both women from the original are missing. Clinton and the one in the background by what looks to be the doors. Does anyone else see (or not see in this case) that in the changed photo?

    May 9, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Joshua

      This is mentioned in the article.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • HappyMommy1986

      yes I noticed the lady in the back is missing also

      May 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • dorkus maximus

      As it states in the article, "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." Ms. Tomason is the one in the back of the room by the doors.

      May 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • atheist

      Wow! You are PROFOUNDLY stupid. That is what the article is about. I always knew that you had to be at least a bit retarded to believe there is some magical being floating around the sky controlling everything. Thank you for providing some proof to my theory..

      May 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
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About this blog

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.