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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. Matt of Boston

    Gee, If Hillary wasn't in the room, maybe the Holacost did not take the lives of any women ??? If a Jewish newspaper can alter history on a whim, than anyone can.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • stormeagle

      Exactly. You can't have it both ways – a distortion of history is a distortion, no matter who does it.
      Seems a bit hypocritical to complain about holocaust deniers when you have no qualms doing something like this – just because it's on a minor scale doesn't alter the principle.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • tngirl

      Love strong men like Matt!

      May 9, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • stubbycat

      The Jewish newspaper didn't alter history, it altered a photo and by so, violated the divine principle of honesty and integrity and childishly embarrassed itself by getting caught in this dishonest, juvenile act.

      May 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • LG

      the jews just bumped some people from a picture- real women are actually murdering their unborn children- I think, feel the jews have the moral high ground here

      May 10, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  2. Moe Loubani

    People need to leave religion alone. These people practice what they do and if we just leave them alone and let them be free to do what they want then we will all be happier for it. So what if they want to remove a woman from the photo? They don't have to explain anything, freedom of religion is key to a real civilization.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • lordpet

      Since when is lying an example of religious principles and freedom? I thought the other guy was the master of lies, not God.

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

      no the end of religion will be the key to true civilization

      May 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > People need to leave religion alone. These people practice what they do and if we just leave them alone and let them be free to do what they want then we will all be happier for it. So what if they want to remove a woman from the photo? They don't have to explain anything, freedom of religion is key to a real civilization.

      You're absolutely correct. People have a right to believe whatever they want. They don't however, have a right to impinge on other people's lives based on their beliefs. Removing Hilary Clinton from the image is misrepresenting the truth, no different then omitting details for a specific purpose.

      And obscuring the truth for religious values is not acceptable at all. Ever.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Nanowired

      I'll leave religion alone when religion leaves me alone.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Nancy

      Religion and you Moe are free.... to go extinct. It's happening! Good-bye!!!!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • twiddly

      People need to leave religion... period!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Sam

      Jihad comes from freedom of religion... I don't know about you, but I'm not better off for it.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • M-TX

      What they have done however is break the copywright law that was set by the the White House and the U.S. Government by "doctoring" the photo for "their" taste. I'm Jewish, and that was WRONG..

      May 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • xactomundo

      People absolutely are free to believe what they want to, just as I am free to mock them for their ridiculous belief. I was a chaperone for my 12 yo daughter's trip to DC last week, and when we passed the crazy zealots passing out pamphlets about the "Rapture" coming on the 21st, I stopped and made sure my kid saw me tell this guy that he is an a$$h0le kook that should be ashamed of himself for trying to pass along his delusional notions...

      May 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Soctane

      Leave religion alone? What the world needs more than freedom of religion is freedom FROM religion. If this is the way religion operates, it is apparent that religion is nothing more than a pack of lies. So we leave religion alone and you end up with things like the Crusades, the Inquisition, and 9/11. All in the name of God. Or Santa. Or the Tooth Fairy. Or Prince Caspian of Narnia. Or which ever opiate the masses are indulging in.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Landruu

      Well now. If religion could leave the photograph alone, then you might have a valid point. Religion just doesn't believe in truth.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Diane

      They do not have the right to rewrite history. If they don't like the facts of the photo as it is, they should not have run the photo at all. Doctoring it and eliminating some of the people present because they don't like the facts as they exist is wrong.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Stunned

      Moe, go get Larry and Curly and run around poking your eyes out then the world will be what you want it to be without having to make liars out of yourself. So your religion says it's OK to lie to people to hide women? What fantasy do you people create with your common sins of manhood. Or do you lie about that also?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • bilrob1

      I agree that we need more religious tolerance. It's important to accept someone's religious practice. But,those practices still have to reside within the law. If a Rastafarian is smoking cannabis as part of h their religious observance,they would still be arrested. The same should apply to copy write laws . If there was something about the photo that was in conflict with Orthodox Jewish Law. then the publication should not have used the photo at all.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • TechGuy

      Hey Moe,

      Leave religion out of it and start paying your taxes, don’t hid behind your beliefs, embrace them and contribute to society in a positive manor. All you’re doing with this kind of crap is throwing fuel on the fire. Last time I check religion does not exclude you from following the laws of the nation you reside in!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Jack W

      By your logic, we should leave the muslim extremists alone to practice their religion as they see fit. Even though that threatens our very lives and liberties.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Jim

      Leave religion alone. Or in pairs, or in larger groups. The fewer religious people, the better for the world.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Lettuce Prey

      I'll give religion all due respect as soon as all churches start paying their fair share of taxes.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      Nanowired–Love your comment.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • JediMasterMatt

      If you think about it hatred, bigotry, discrimination, oppression & war usually stems from roots in religious beliefs and differences.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  3. JimBob

    Amazing that reality is so offensive to some people that they go to the extreme of doctoring photographs. Of course these people have the right to their religion and their beliefs. However, under copyright law, they do not have the right to use a picture that belongs to someone else, alter it to be inaccurate and then make money by publishing it. If I were to take a picture from online of one of the editors of this paper and altered it digitally to make it look like he was kissing Bin Laden, then published it in my newspaper, you can bet he would be furious and rightly sue me. I kind of doubt the white house will get into it with these people; however, they have really highlighted an aspect to their worldview that most of us find completely ridiculous. Extreme religion (like extreme anything) is bad for society and ultimately hurts us all.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  4. Ed Galbraith

    All religions are irrational.The "story" of all religion is man-made fiction. The more "religious" or zealous, the more irrational, but they are all cousins; Moslems, Jews, Christians, ad nauseum. This is an example. How did we ever get this far? Shame on people who stir around in the nonsense.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Alfredo Fla.

      I follow the faith of the holy goat. Its not irrational...just stupid. (really, I agree with your comment though.)

      May 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Geez

      It is one thing to hold a belief and it is another to claim something you cant prove and truth. That goes for you too. You are no different than those you belittle.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  5. Silence Dogood

    Having women in the photo is suggestive. So men aren't? What if a woman were to see a photo of a man, that's not sugge...oh wait. Women aren't allowed to read anyway...

    May 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  6. mmm

    This paper is printed in NYC by people who live in America? Toooooooo many oppressed religious people living among us. Get rid of the oppression among you. They should be sued for violating the disclaimer. People need to learn to keep their faith separate from their political agenda in the U.S.

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

      well said

      May 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  7. BoyGoy

    Wahabi Muslims seem positively modern compared to certain Hasidic sects. Then again, the latter generally don't go around attacking "infidels."

    May 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  8. Fokjou

    Religion is a joke. The End.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  9. Liberty Queen

    P.S. the little jewish twits erased TWO women from the photo, not just Hillary Clinton.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  10. Joe in Colorado

    So lying is more "religious" than posting a picture of the truth?

    May 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  11. Jeff

    Only one correction – the publication is not correctly classified as a "newspaper". Out west, if you can't trust a man's word, then you can't trust anything about him. That is fact.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  12. RedJazz

    Here's how it works, DT newspaper: You can't have your cake and eat it, too! If you can't publish official photos depicting women in history, then this photo is not on your menu of options. By doctoring the photo, all you have done is drawn attention to yourselves and lost credibiltiy and respect from the larger community.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  13. SC

    These people are stupid. It's not that people can only see this picture from them or anything.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  14. Liberty Queen

    Oh, and don't forget, hasidic jewish boys, you came from between the legs of a strong woman. Try erasing that!

    May 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • LG

      And they do try

      In "therapy" with a jewish male "doctor" he tried to tell me "Don't forget ! we're born alone! to which I replied, well actually we're born with our mothers

      to which he replied, Yuck!

      May 10, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  15. Liberty Queen

    Hasidic jews, another woman-hating, woman-erasing, woman-abusing misogynist boys club! Go away, far, FAR, AWAY!!!

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

      Thank you!!

      May 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • f

      Go see their little Hasidic Jewish "country" in the middle of Brooklyn in Willimasburg and Crown Heights. You would be amazed at how they live and especially how they treat thier women. Very much the same as the wacky Muslims. Big difference is the Jewish women are well educated.

      May 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Khalid30

      Well, although I dont think the level of education is related to religion in any way nowadays...but women that are educated and accepting that kind of treatment is a lot worse that uneducated women.

      May 10, 2011 at 2:46 am |
  16. luckyponytoo

    Sad to see, once again, lies being told in the name of religion. It's one thing to say you don't think women should hold powerful government positions (or whatever their particular issue is with having the women in the pic). It's another to present something as the truth (the photo), when it is purposely and knowingly altered.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  17. Tony

    I don't understand the reasoning for removing the females from the photo but I agree they have a right too. This American with freedom to worship as you believe as long as no one else rights are violated.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Godless

      But they didn't have the right to do that. Per the White House disclaimer:

      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.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Jill American

      Well Tony, I think the rights of the two women in the picture were violated and doctoring a picture in a 'newspaper' isn't news when it alters the facts. Their choice should have been not to print the picture at all.

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

      No they don't have a right to , based on the copyright disclaimer that was distributed to press outlets, song with the picture. Read the article.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      Except that they DON'T have the right to. There are laws against such things, and not just this photo, but most photos.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Tim

      No, they don't have the right to do it. That photo was released by the White House with the restriction that you may not print manipulated versions of the photo.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • evelec

      How can you say they have right to do so? They have no right at all. Read the article.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Tully

      How about the rights of the two women in the original picture? Or women's rights don't count?

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

      Since when is publishing the news called "worship"? Especially the wrong news.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Phil

      @Tully
      Either:
      1.) Your attempt to troll failed.
      2.) You've missed the entire point of the article.
      3.) You're mistaken in the assumption that manipulating photos IN ANY WAY is somehow against women's rights, it's not, it's creative freedom.

      That said, it shouldn't have been disseminated in its manipulated fashion as per the copyright holders request.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • f

      The most ironic thing is this was done by an American Jewish newspaper. The Jews, who Clinton (Hill & Bill) have "loved" and campaigned with and for, and showed heavy support for Israel for all these years are now dismissing Hillary as "invisible" and "not even in the picture". !! Wow, what a slap in the face.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Chris Baumgarten

      What exactly does a newspaper article have to do with a right to worship? They're supposed to read it, not to pray over it. Freedom of religion does not mean that you have the right to violate someone else's right (in that case the photographer's and tose of the people on the photo) in order to block out those parts of reality you find hard to accept. That's just plain ridiculous. Besides being openly mysogynic and bigotted and hypocritical and stupid.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  18. Rick's Real

    That's like putting your hands over your eyes to become invisible to the world.

    May 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • OldYgg

      What, that doesn't work?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Okay

      Well, I can't see you. It seems to be working.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  19. Dave U

    This is rich, I would like to hear if the WH actually takes some action against this newspaper for doctoring the photos. These are the religious groups that scare me, as a non-believer in the all powerful invisible man, I don't like to knock people for their beliefs, they are their beliefs and theirs alone. Most religious folk do really good work for those that are less fortunately and they have come up with some great rules to live by over the years. But then there are these people, they lie to their own and make some religious excuse that is is okay, it's not okay, you just violated one of your 10 biggest rules. This behavior when broken down is about control and making excuses and these people should be considered extremists and shunned by the rest of us. It's this type of logic that justifies killing in the name of god, not saying this group would do that, but the logic is the same

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

      Very well put.

      May 9, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Sottovoce

      You are right.

      May 9, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Mister Tomorrow

      Well said. I too neither belong to or condemn anyone's religious beliefs but it amazes me that millions of people remain deaf and dumb to the hypocrisy of any ideology that simultaneously says "love each other" and "hate each other." Hunh?
      Also, what is the difference between saying "ultra-orthodox" and "extremist" ? What's the difference between women having to cover themselves with a veil or a wig?
      Right on our own Brooklyn streets, there are xerox signs all over reminding the women that their skirts better not be shorter than 4 inches below the knee because it's "forbidden". I wonder why no one ever calls these poor women repressed or oppressed or discriminated against?

      May 9, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Clarity

      A Muslim would have been put in jail for violating the rule – while Jews are excused for sincere mistakes, across the board.

      May 10, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  20. Bob

    And they say conservatives have more common sense!

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

      What?

      May 9, 2011 at 1:18 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.