Photo Mix-up With Obama Is a Hoax! No It’s Not! Yes It Is!

Filed under: Political Pranks

Submitted by David Strom from

Photo Mix-up With Obama Is Called Hoax
By Joseph Plambeck
The New York Times
May 9, 2010

“Obama touts wind energy in Iowa,” a headline read on The Washington Post”™s Web site in late April. But if a reader”™s screen grab is to be believed, the headline ran with a photo not of the president but of Malcolm X. And in an age when any mistake is possible grist for a public flogging, this was a catchy gotcha.

In quick succession that day, the screen grab appeared on the Web sites of Gawker and New York magazine. For both sites, nuance was not in the cards.

“The Washington Post Cannot Tell Obama From Malcolm X,” the headline read on Gawker. Forty minutes later, New York”™s Daily Intel blog described the image as “the very greatest news-website screen grab ever.”

Initially, The Post thought it was innocent human error. A separate article in its homepage slide show was about Malcolm X. But the next day, The Post dug through its edit logs and found no evidence of a mistake.

Andrew Alexander, The Post”™s ombudsman, who had received about a dozen reader messages about the image, wrote last week that “after an internal investigation, Post editors have concluded the case of mistaken identity was most likely a hoax.”

But was it?

Jessica Pressler, a senior editor at Daily Intel, said in an interview that the source of the screen grab was a friend of hers whom she trusts. She did not identify the person. “We”™re confident that it is legit,” Ms. Pressler said.

In an e-mail message to Gawker, the source denied manipulating the image. “I don”™t even have Photoshop on my computer! Also, two co-workers saw my screen before I sent it,” he wrote. “I wanted to write though because I don”™t want you to lose credibility with your readers who think that you got duped.”

Perhaps, the source wrote, it was an issue with his Internet Explorer browser.

“Neither of us know 100 percent what happened,” said Dan Amira, who wrote about the image for Daily Intel, referring to his site and The Post. “It”™s a mystery.”

photo: NY Magazine