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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. Val

    How did this "newspaper" represent Golda Meir?

    May 10, 2011 at 2:31 am |
  2. Val

    When will s0-called religious people learn to tell the truth?

    May 10, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  3. Val

    So it's ok in his religion to tell lie. It's ok in his religion to lie about history. It's ok in his religion to propogate a falsehood as news and truth. But it's not ok to show Hilary Clinton fully dressed? I do not want any part of people who want re-invent history.

    I have a question. Did the picture's caption accurately reflect who was in the room or did they lie there too? Religious people who lie....the bible NEVER said that telling or depicting a falsehood was ok.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:27 am |
  4. Terry Brookman

    God said to Abraham kill me a son
    Abe said man you must be putting me on
    God said NO
    Abe said what?
    God said the next time you see me you better run
    Abe said, where do you want this killing done?
    God said out on highway 61

    May 10, 2011 at 2:24 am |
  5. nickers

    I wonder what Tom Cruise would say. I wonder if we're all just being glib.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:23 am |
  6. Andrew

    I can do whatever I like and say ts because of my religion? Freaks

    May 10, 2011 at 2:17 am |
  7. Me

    LOL. All the armchair activists are up late.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:15 am |
  8. thespriritguy

    If only divorce court was that easy...

    May 10, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  9. Shawn

    Silly Jews.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:12 am |
  10. Terry Brookman

    Mohamed just ripped off the Jewish and Christan teachings, he also added a bunch of other nonsense. His basic form of conversion was done with a sword, much like the early Catholic church. They were still burning witches in this country and in Europe until around 1500. Anyone who hears god telling him to kill someone is nuts.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  11. Amitoj Singh

    The same way this publication apologized for editing a photo, maybe CNN itself should not only apologize but publicly screen a Special after their own stupidity in many of their scenarios. Here CNN shows an unrelated picture..http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/h7iyf/almost_10_years_after_911_cnn_still_doesnt_know/
    and here again CNN shows an unrelated Photo http://sikhchic.com/current_events/dear_mr_estenson_an_open_letter_to_cnn
    When will CNN be put in the limelight?

    May 10, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  12. Gary Bantich

    Looking forward to the day that the USA inaugurates its first woman president – should make for an interesting newspaper for a while – how do you dare to erase the leader of a country in ALL photos then!!!! Or even better – Israel gets its next woman Prime Minister. Why are they so scared of acknowledging the role that women play in society?

    May 10, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  13. sally

    i hate men

    May 10, 2011 at 2:04 am |
    • Khalid30

      You will still go to bed with them =) fact.

      May 10, 2011 at 2:08 am |
    • Used Umbrella 4 sale

      But Sally! It's RAINING MEN!
      They are hitting the ground like wet bags of cement!
      Don't hate them! Use them to take out the garbage and give you MONEY!!$$$$$$!!!
      Raining men, girl! Now get out there with a bukkit!

      May 10, 2011 at 7:07 am |
  14. sahsan

    Yes just imagine if this were done by some Muslims newspaper! this would have remained a headline news for several days.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:04 am |
  15. not amused

    What are they going to do when we elect a woman president someday? Erase her from all the pictures too???

    May 10, 2011 at 2:03 am |
    • Nix

      Yup, and there will be just this empty oval office and when she gives speeches just long pauses... because women don't exist for them. After all, can you elect a chair president? Of course not. To people who would erase a leader from a photo because they're a woman, that's all a woman is to them... a chair or some other form of property... not a person, not someone just like them.

      May 10, 2011 at 2:38 am |
  16. cheezewiz

    @chillwind- exactly. Non-believers are doing what believers have been doing for centuries: crusading. It's not that I'm ignoring what the believers are doing or not doing. It's just that I don't see the world as becoming some utopia when religion is abolished. With or with out religion we'd still have war, genocide, boundry disputes, ect. Atheism is just another form of religion, instead of the belief of God, it's becoming the belief of the absence of God. Whatever happened to a mutual respect for all beliefs? That is actually what America needs. That's freedom of religion. As for freedom of speech, I support that, too, or I wouldn't be here. I guess the thought that atheists are atheists based on the ability to use their intelligence to logically reason away the need for a god didn't help some of them to dissuade the use of hate mongering to find support for their cause...just like the "stupid" religious "nutjobs".

    May 10, 2011 at 2:03 am |
    • Me

      You're not crusading. You're sitting there in an easy chair anonymously posting your opinions that no one but you cares about. LOL

      May 10, 2011 at 2:11 am |
    • Shawn

      Exactly. The atheists can be just as annoying as the religious nutters.

      May 10, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  17. ab_contador

    Yet another example of how religion, in all its forms, is just plain nauseating – will humanity ever grow up?

    May 10, 2011 at 2:02 am |
  18. hmmmm

    erase women? well, it's my first amendment privilege to say i hate ultra religious beliefs, regardless of denomination. period.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:59 am |
  19. Terry Brookman

    They don't eat pork because pigs have Worms or perhaps because pork and human tastes alike, ever heard of long pig?

    May 10, 2011 at 1:57 am |
  20. Scott

    I will never understand why people choose to ignore the effect religion has always had on the mind. It is truly sad on so many levels.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • Sonya

      Totally agree!! it is sad!!

      May 10, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • Me

      That's a big generalization.

      May 10, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • Val

      How did they represent Golda Meir?

      May 10, 2011 at 2:31 am |
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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.