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. MoAlsh

    I hope responses at CNN.com give a break of attacking muslims and islam and find another religion to attack!!.

    May 10, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  2. svann

    Regardless of the rules of copyright and/or local religious rules, any newspaper should know that you dont doctor the news. If a picture is too offensive to print then you either dont print it at all or you black out the offensive portion. You dont change it to something its not. This is completely unprofessional.

    May 10, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  3. LG

    I really can't stop laughing... who is that dark haired woman in the back , anyway? She sure looks like bin laden's wife.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  4. jewish boy

    Firstly, as an orthodox jew, I think I have some insight that may shed light on the story.
    1- these ppl weren't afraid of gettin "turned on", they have policy that they don't publish pics of any women bc wat happens if someone wants to place an ad of a women in a bikini, or let's say hillary was wearing a shirt with a low neckine. So since its hard to draw a line, they don't allow any pics of women at all.
    2- this audiance believes it should be seperate so they will not get influenced by the outside world. It is easy to see the degeneration of society, and how far we have fallen. What is normal now, our grandparents would never have even thought of performing these actions. These sheltered sect don't even have internet! so they probly wouldn't have seen the original anyways.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Cedar rapids

      '2- this audiance believes it should be seperate so they will not get influenced by the outside world'
      Then why have a newspaper if you dont want to be influenced by the outside world?

      May 10, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  5. Brian Armadillo

    Does their religion instruct them to propogate lies? Doubtful. So don't do it. If you can't publish the picture as is, THEN DON'T PUBLISH THE PICTURE!!!!!

    May 9, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  6. BigEd

    Oy Vey!

    May 9, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  7. ME

    Another reason to gleam that ALL religion is evil. Pure evil.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Robert Stephens

      Being absolutely objective, I must agree with you. Period!

      Robert A.M. Stephens, LLC
      Scaled Dynamics
      NASA Visual Exploration
      Pan America

      May 10, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  8. EJL

    Here we go with the religious propaganda again. You cant argue with somebody who believes the earth is 6,000 years old but...you can get a good laugh out of it.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  9. pop

    wow best photoshop artist ever seen.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  10. stjude13

    @ dig. It's not that she can't see the forest for the trees, she's never been out in the woods alone.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • LG

      even in a crowd you can be alone,,, can you dig?????

      May 10, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  11. stubbycat

    The question that this so-called "religious" newspaper should ask is why it was willing to commit what, in my opinion, is an historic fraud upon the public by doctoring the photo in question.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  12. Justin

    Hahah! "Freedom of religion outweighs freedom of the press." Sorry, but our religion mandates that we have to tell lies. What an ignorant, stupid religion.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  13. charles bowen

    Religion, The Greatest Fraud ever perpetrated on Man Kind. Thank You God whatever you are. Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    May 9, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  14. Benjamin Zhao

    I'm interested in getting to know the religious tradition behind such action towards gender. But I guess I'll never be given a chance to even meet a Orthodox person. We all live in the square given to us, no freedom these days. My little living square has been deliberately directed towards Mother by some human out there.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • vasechek

      read some of the previous comments. it's all there

      May 9, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  15. Laura

    Did the Jewish paper write that Hilary was present but not shown in the photograph out of respect for her, or did they not mention she was present at all? That would say a lot about the true intent.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • nyman87

      Very good question/point

      May 10, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  16. americanno

    More proof that religion is stupid.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • Alex

      amen to that!

      May 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • stubbycat

      no, religion isn't stupid, but unenlightened, unprincipled people insistent in their error of lacking in integrity do exemplify that category.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  17. Sal

    Too bad we can't scrub Clinton from politics altogether. Imagine if I were to apply for a job as a Doctor and on my resume listed "was married to a Doctor" as my only qualification or experience. I'd be unemployed.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Spiffy

      She was a senator.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Marcia

      If your only qualification was that you were "married to a doctor" than you sure wouldn't be qualified for the job. If however you were indeed educated as a physician yourself and even perhaps a better physician than your famous husband, I bet you would think you were qualified then, huh?

      May 9, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Sal is like really dumb, seriously.

      You're really stupid.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  18. AZIMY


    May 9, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  19. DMcK

    Acting like Islamists – hope they are proud of that! For modesty, what bullsh!t. Lost my respect, and that of many others for sure.

    May 9, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • nyman87

      umm...actually "Islamists" (which isn't a word...they're called Muslims..go to school) have no rules about women in photographs

      May 10, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  20. amma maw

    ‎"Modesty"...BULL!! It's about time that the men of these so 'Godly' orthodox religious sects stop acting like they're being some kind of 'respectful' to women by their misogynist rules and learn to control their own lust and/or inability to keep their minds on 'God' in the presence of the other half of the human race that 'He' presumably created in – at LEAST – an equal capacity! I am SO over this bigotry.

    May 9, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Robert Stephens

      Amen! It is women that are the other half of EVERYTHING!!! Religion, tragically, is for those afraid of the dark. Islam, more, is for those afraid of not only life, but EVERYTHING. Islam: The Abolition.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:56 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.