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. svann

    I mean no offense to Hillary, but to think in some part of the world that a picture of her is s3xually suggestive...
    Its just hard to get my head around it.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • luvuall

      What I want to know is if they took all that time to remove people, why not add a few back. Say Osama bin Laden somewhere back in the corner? With two hands over his mouth?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • roadrunner

      Yeah, I would like to hear Bill's initial reaction.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  2. someoneelse

    All religions are dumb.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Anthony

      That is speaking from your vast education in world religions, no doubt. You know what they say though.... There are no atheists in foxholes. Belief in a higher power is not dumb. The arrogance you exhibit by speaking out of your ass about that which you know nothing about is definitely dumb.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Jim

      Anthony: Yes, they say there are no atheists in foxholes, but the mere fact people say that does not make it true. There have been many atheists in foxholes, and being in a foxhole, or being near death, has not turned them into religoius believers.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • alex

      @anthony I can definantly relate to you anthony.. I used to be just as defensive ans scared as you are about realizing the truth, but after a while its hard to ignore the Overwhelming evidence. If you dont think that the truth is important (and your religion or belief in whatever deity) then go ahead with your delusional thoughts.. just dont poison other peoples minds with them.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  3. Margroks

    Who's to say? The government for one, who made clear the photo was NOT to be altered in any way. And me, as a woman, who finds that so-called "explanation" ridiculous. Extremists in any religion always cause trouble and this seems to be no exception. A picture of a woman is suggestive? Nonsense. This is the same excuse we get from extremist muslims-their excuse for keeping women repressed-cover them up, keep them home, and blame them if a man harms them in any way. Intolerable is what this is.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Eric

      Exactly right. I'm Jewish, and these extremists horrify me just like Islamic and Christian extremists.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      Exactly. There's nothing more to be said about that pitifuly "explanation". Except perhaps that in these cultures it seems that contrary to their own perception it is the men who are weak. Apparently they're easily driven to all kinds of acts of madness by seeing the strand of a girl's hair or the photograph of a woman around retirement age (no offense to Hillary Clinton whom I hold in high regards)

      May 10, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  4. ThePreacher2

    I can't believe they got caught...:)

    May 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  5. ezra

    Hmm, I think I remeber a german dictator with a little mustache that used to doctor photos to eliminate inconvenient truths. Kind-of ironic, isn't it. They should be ashamed!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      To be fair: A lot of people did that, even back then. Same goes for Stalin for example but as far as I remember this has been common practice even in democratic countries for some decades now. Here it may not be necessarily gov'ts using these techniques (although they do, too) but usually "free enterprise". Either way, photos have unfortunately become a very common means of manipulating the way we think about the world in many ways, the crudest of which is certainly erasing people from pictures.
      Fortunately sometimes someone is found out. Usually those people who do the bluntest jobs. And, as in this case, very ignorant people who try use all means to spread their backward propaganda.
      Mind: I find this and the people responsible for this as ridiculous and as offensive as you do. It's just that I'm too cynical to find it in any way surprising.
      Btw, just out of curiosity: Is Ezra in your case a Jewish guy's name as in Ezra (or Esra) Pound) or the Turkish girl's name? Just asking 'cause an exgf of mine was called Ezra.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  6. The Dude

    Religion = Lies

    Their Dogma is a lie, their history is a lie and everything they say is a lie.

    Religion is for the Ignorant and Cowardly.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Anthony

      Really? And what is atheism for then? The enlightened and educated? Oh, I forgot arrogant. Not believing in something does not make it false. Aristotle said it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it. Clearly this excludes you from the educated mind category.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • roadrunner

      I find it ironic that these people who were saying 'Show me the picture of a dead Bin Laden because I need proof' go to church or synogogue every week and they don't tell the minister or rabbi 'Hey, show me a photo because I need proof about all this', now do they?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • P

      Anthony, you should listen to Aristotle and entertain the idea that god does not exist. By the way, we don't know what Aristotle actually said – all we have are the lecture notes of his students. But the quote can stand on its own merits and works both ways.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      He also said:
      Men create gods after their own image, not only with regard to their form but with regard to their mode of life.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • NoFool

      @Anthony: A tip for you – go to godisimaginarydotcom, please. Read up and come back when you have returned to your senses.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Sophie

      In case anyone is interested the rebuttal to godisimaginarydotcom can be found at gii.josiahconcepdotorg

      May 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • NoFool

      @Sophie: Why would anyone be interested in rebutting facts (at godisimaginarydotcom) with fiction and fairy tales? Doh!

      May 9, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  7. Jeffrey Campbell

    these people are true to life religious WHACK JOBS.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  8. tom j

    The Taliban would be envious

    May 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  9. Carl

    What? Religious leaders rewriting history?!? When did all this start??? Answer: A few thousand years ago. Happens all the time – nothing to see here folks – move along . . .

    May 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Gena

      Excellent point!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  10. Cruzader

    Any doubts that religion is nothing more than stupidity?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • NoFool


      May 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  11. Anthony

    wow... I'm not sure how they thought they were going to get away with this. That is a picture which has been widely circulated. Hillary's cough during the photo is probably more talked about than anything else. To do a really crappy photoshop job on the picture by removing the two women is just retarded. They are going to get sooooo screwed by this decision.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      Let's look at it from the positive side: Who knows how many of their readers actually noticed that there were no more women to be seen in the paper? Gaps are something that's hard to detect, actually. Now that they're aware of that at least some of them will start thinking about how much truth the newspaper has withheld from them in the past – and hopefully will cancel their subscription. At least if there is another Yddish paper in town.

      May 10, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  12. svann

    This sounds so much like "1984" by Orwell. History is erased.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  13. John

    Those Hasidic Jews must be awful horney buggers, if a woman in print bothers them. What do they do when they walk down the street, wear blindfolds?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Ponderance

      And how do they propagate? Immaculate conception?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  14. vx0

    Religion will be the ultimate downfall of the human species.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Anthony

      I suppose that means that means the Godless atheists will inherit the earth then, eh? I sincerely doubt your comment is true at all, but whatever helps you sleep better at night. I guess it is easier to hate all organized religion than to explore the truthfulness in any of them. Atheism is just a religion centered on laziness instead of being centered on a higher power.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Jim

      Anthony: Why do you think anthiests have NOT explored all religions? Most atheists are atheists precisely because they have explored most of the major religions, and found them to be anything but truth. Atheists tend to know the Bible, its history, and its contents better than religious people do. And as for a "higher power", just because you feel the need to believe in one, that does not mean there actually is one.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • P

      Anthony, I think laziness is throwing up your hands and saying "God did it" every time something happens. Thousands of years ago, people couldn't explain a rainbow so they said "God did it." Fortunately we now know that god didn't make a rainbow when the flood stopped – and as a matter of fact, I can make one myself with a garden hose. If it weren't for people who decided to look further for truth, than you wouldn't be able to post garbage on the internet because there wouldn't be one. But you are of course free to continue making up stories about how things are until someone with a little ingenuity and work ethic comes along to give a better explanation for what is happening.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • nonreligious

      Anthony – Religion does not have "truth". It has "beliefs". And people who don't share those beliefs tend to be thrown into a category of "idiots" whose opinions mean nothing. I agree that religion will be the downfall of the world. I just hope it waits a few years.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • alex

      na we'll get rid of it soon enough.. probibly 100 years or so it will be down to just 10 percent of the population

      May 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  15. Joe B-b-b-b-bob

    Interesting how this extreme Jewish orthodoxy is so similar to extreme Islam. Maybe their shared misogyny and mental illness can be a bridge to peace. . . ..

    May 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Not Erica

      Don't forget the Christian extremists. They're just as misogynistic and anti-everyone-else as the rest of them.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • tngirl

      A bridge to peas? Mmmmm, I love peas.

      May 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  16. ferret out the B.S.

    There was no real need to publish the image so why publish it and doctor it? In my opinion the newspaper loses all credibility when either an incomplete or slanted story or publishing an image that has been doctored. The publisher should grow up and understand that manipulated journalism does a disservice to its readership. Either publish the truth or find another line of work or expression. This applies to all news organizations.

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

      They printed and doctored the photo because that's how sick and twisted of mind these people are. Religion is truly the bane of man and any extreme forms (such as orthodox) are always the worst. I hope this news(cough!)paper has to answer in court for doctoring that image in violation of the terms of use, which by the way I am confident they were fully aware of before doing what they did.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  17. Sheeze

    Jews. Now these are the folks that wrote the Bible right?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Only the first book.
      Poor Jews, trying to get through life with only half a bible.
      Unless you're Mormon, then it's only 1/3rd of the bible.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  18. Houston

    Paul – they do mention Audrey Tomason, director of counterterrorism. Is that who you're referring to?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  19. benard

    this is one good example of how cnn is so left and even this stupid story,if it can bring some PR for the democ"rats" its on the front page of the news, hay here is a news flash this news paper is the most leftist Jewish paper in the us..... so u can take this down......

    May 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Whether you approve or not is irrelevant. This IS news.
      It's also legally actionable, as the paper willfully violated the terms of use on that photograph.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • EJ in Metro Houston

      I just saw this same picture on the FoxNews website and we KNOW how far left they are. If you don't believe me go look at it yourself. Besides most people on the left defend equal rights for women so your complaints have no merit.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Phil

      REligion is stupid. Just like the people that practice it. Think for yourselves.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • P

      'Hay' is for horses Einstein, and yours just laid a turd.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • roadrunner

      Left, right, what is wrong with you? Is this the only prism through which you see things? Look, pal, when you limit yourself to these ambiguous terms of left and right you aren't saying anything. I am so sick of numbskulls like you.l

      May 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  20. Don

    Orthodox and fundamentalist religion is ludicrous.

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

      The Taliban is right in OUR midst, right in New York. Let's withdraw our troops in Afghanistan and take care of the Taliban in NY (this is not an "anti" -semitic observation, it's a call to reason and common sense, against religious fanaticism, of any kind)

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

      I doubt that you even know what those words mean.....

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

      Orthodoxy in itself has nothing to do with it. It depends what you are being orthodox about.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Shane

      Religion is all founded on fables and mythologies. As Gene Roddenberry once said: "We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes."

      May 9, 2011 at 1:20 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.