The New York Times on Monday answered criticism from conservatives alleging that the paper cropped out President George W. Bush from a front-page photo of Saturday’s commemorative march in Selma, Alabama.
“Twitter was ablaze with criticism of The Times, many conservative news organizations wrote critical articles — and my email inbox overflowed,” public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote in a blog post on Monday morning.
“Some readers said they were canceling their Times subscriptions,” she added. “Others were simply disappointed.”
Among the scores of average Twitter users, Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee, sniped at the paper on Sunday for leaving Bush out of the front-page splash.
— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) March 8, 2015
The conservative site Newsmax also speculated on Monday whether the Times had purposefully cropped Bush, noting that a local station ran a wider shot of the march “and mentioned in its post that Bush was in attendance.” (The Times story also mentioned Bush’s attendance and noted that the former President signed the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006.)
But according to Sullivan, the Times didn’t edit the photo at all.
“There was no crop,” ranking photo editor Michele McNally told her. “This was the photo as we received it.”
The photographer, Doug Mills, provided Sullivan with more detail.
“Bush was in the bright sunlight,” he explained. “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.”
Sullivan concluded that the explanation made sense to her, and that she detected no political bias in the photo decision.