Photo manipulations are considered a grave sin in journalism. But CNN says it had no idea the image, which it received from the Biden campaign, had been doctored. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign acknowledged Wednesday that it altered the photo — but not because of the recent fraught debate over the football team’s name.
Instead, a Biden aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the campaign had previously scrubbed the logo from the photo when it was used in a campaign ad — to avoid any copyright issues that might draw a complaint from the team.
The practice of removing copyrighted material from candidate ads is “a very common practice on campaigns,” the aide said.
CNN said on Wednesday that it aired the photo as it received it from the Biden campaign and that it was unaware that it had been altered.
A spokesman said the network will use the unaltered photo, showing the logo, in future airings of the documentary. However, the altered image was still part of the documentary in the version streaming on CNN’s website on Wednesday afternoon.
“As with any biographical documentary, we ask the subject for photos and videos,” the network said in a statement. “We received this picture and many others from the Biden campaign, and any additional inquiries should be sent their way.”
News organizations typically reject photos that have been altered or manipulated in some way, other than cropping them for space reasons. Controversies over airbrushed or doctored news photos are almost as old as news photography itself.
The original photo drew a brief flurry of attention in July when, after the Redskins announced they were dropping their name, the director of the Republican National Committee’s rapid-response team, Steve Guest, tweeted a copy of it and asked, “Hey Joe Biden, are you still a Redskins fan?” Guest quickly deleted the tweet after drawing criticism.