On Friday, the Brooklyn-based Hasidic newspaper Di Tzeitung ran the now-famous photo of President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and others in the White House Situation Room. Just one problem: In Di Tzeitung's version, Hillary Clinton wasn't there. Neither was Director for Counterterrorism Audrey Tomason, the only other woman in the shot. Di Tzeitung had airbrushed them out.
This is, evidently, editorial policy at the paper--Di Tzeitung never runs photos of women, because such images could be "sexually suggestive." But the removal of Clinton and Tomason made the media sit up and take notice. "Apparently the presence of a woman, any woman, being all womanly and sexy all over the United States' counterterrorism efforts was too much for the editors of Der Tzitung to handle," scoffed Morning Gloria at Jezebel. The writer Taylor Marsh called it "unethical" and "unacceptable ... The people who made the decision to rewrite U.S. history, including the publisher of Der Tzitung, have shown themselves to be part of the problem in this world."
Rabbi Jason Miller at The Jewish Week criticized the move on theological grounds: "Der Tzitung edited Hillary Clinton out of the photo, thereby changing history. To my mind, this act of censorship is actually a violation of the Jewish legal principle of g'neivat da'at (deceit)." And Miller pointed out that the manipulated photo might violate man's law as well as God's: the White House made the photo available with the disclaimer that it "may not be manipulated in any way."
We reached out to Di Tzeitung for comment, and they sent us a PDF of a prepared statement. Here's what they have to say:
On manipulating the photo against the White House's wishes
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. 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.
On the accusations that Di Tzeitung disrespects women in power
The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office, is a malicious slander and libel. The current Secretary of State, the Honorable Hillary R. Clinton, was a Senator representing New York State with great distinction 8 years. She won overwhelming majorities in the Orthodox Jewish communities in her initial campaign in '00, and when she was re-elected in '06, because the religious community appreciated her unique capabilities and compassion to all communities. The Jewish religion does not allow for discrimination based on gender, race, etc. We respect all government officials. We even have special prayers for the welfare of our Government and the government leaders, and there is no mention of gender in such prayers.
On the editorial policy that forbids images of women
In accord with our religious beliefs, we do not publish photos of women, which in no way relegates them to a lower status. 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 to women, which is certainly never our intention. We apologize if this was seen as offensive.