WASHINGTON, March 10, 2015 — The New York Times is known around the world by its motto, “All the news that’s fit to print.” And apparently the Times feels that a former Republican president marching at Selma either isn’t news, or the image isn’t fit to print.
Former President George W. Bush was in Selma for the 50th anniversary of the famous march. A wide-angle photo taken there shows Bush, his wife Laura, President Obama and his wife Michelle marching at the head of thousands of people through Selma’s streets. The New York Times ran a tighter version of the photo on the front page, and appears to have cropped the Bushes completely out of the image.
Based on the photo printed by the Times and by other mainstream media outlets, we might believe that President and Mrs. Bush were not at the march. Are the New York Times and other mainstream media trying to rewrite history or create a negative narrative about Republicans? Did the White House have a hand in this?
Front page lead photos from the Times and other mainstream newspapers are often used as records of famous events and to showcase history as it was made. The purposeful omission of the Bushes would imply to the nation and the world that Bush and other Republican leaders—there were at least 20 in attendance—didn’t care enough to show up. But they did.
According to the Times public editor Margaret Sullivan, the photo was not cropped; the Times never received the wide-angle version. According to photographer Doug Mills:
“Just so you know … at the time the photo was taken, I was using a 70-200 long zoom lens. I also had a remote camera with a wide-angle lens attached to the side of the truck that took a photo at the just about the exact moment as the tighter one. As you can see, Bush was in the bright sunlight. I did not even send this frame because it’s very wide and super busy and Bush is super-overexposed because he was in the sun and Obama and the others are in the shade.”
Critics note, however, that professional photographers often shoot in raw image format and can adjust photos for light imbalance. Had the Times wanted a properly exposed image of the Bushes, Mills could have produced and provided one.
Likewise, the White House could have easily impressed upon the event organizers that for the sake of the historical record, it would make perfect sense to have both presidents—one black and one white—walking side by side and making history. Instead it seems that no one considered it worth the effort to put them closer together. Was it politically unpalatable to cast a white Republican ex-president in a positive light?
According to Fox News, Basil Smikle Jr., a Democratic strategist and former advance team member for the Clinton White House also felt that both presidents should have been included in the photo; “Both presidents should have been close together.” Al Sharpton managed to be included in the lead Selma March photo with the Obamas.
Republican leaders are familiar with the tactics that have kept the GOP from any identification with Civil Rights advances in the last 50 years. It would be heard to learn from media records that the Civil Rights Bill passed the Senate with Republican votes, or that President Ronald Reagan supported and signed the Martin Luther King holiday legislation.
Liberal pundits will ask, “so what?” Those same liberal pundits and race baiters will come into urban communities over the next 50 years to say that Republicans do not care about black people and point to the tainted coverage of the event in Selma. They will point to the New York Times’ photo and say, “See here’s the proof that there was not one Republican there.”