After a host of weblogs highlighted the photo, the nationwide newspaper removed it with this explanation:
Editor’s note: The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY’s editorial standards. The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice’s face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.
But prior to the announcement, a number of experienced graphic artists wrote to weblogs, insisting the distortion was no mistake.
“That photo of Condi was deliberately manipulated,” said a reader of Michelle Malkin’s site who has used Photoshop for 10 years.
Another Photoshop user had suggested the photo might have been prepared for print publishing, which sometimes requires that images be sharpened to accommodate a fuzzy format.
The reader believed USA Today used a filter from the program Photoshop called Unsharp Mask, which brings out detail in soft photos.
But the 10-year Photoshop user said he put the photo through the Unsharp Mask filter in Photoshop 5.5 and “could not duplicate what was done.”
The reader argued any filter in Photoshop would apply to the whole image, concluding “the image was deliberately manipulated around the eyes.”
Also, he said, “Notice how the pupils have been narrowed, like a cat’s eyes. Sharpening would not alter the roundness of her pupils, only accentuate them. Another paint or erase tool is required to achieve that effect.”
Two other experienced graphic artists concurred.
As WorldNetDaily reported in November, editorial cartoons in the New York Times and Washington Post elicited charges of racism over their depictions of Rice.
Post cartoonist Pat Oliphant penned Rice as a jabbering, “anything-you-say-boss” parrot – with exaggerated lips – telling the president how great he is. Jeff Danziger, cartoonist for the New York Times, used Butterfly McQueen’s line from “Gone With the Wind” – “I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout birthin’ babies” – to have Rice deny knowledge of the aluminum tubes at the center of the debate over the administration’s rationale for believing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
The Post online dropped Ted Rall’s syndicated cartoons, citing a “tone” that did not fit the paper. In a strip ridiculing Bush administration figures, Rall suggested “appropriate punishments for deposed Bushists” that parody alleged treatment of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. One panel has Rice saying, “I was Bush’s beard! His house nigga. His …” She is interrupted by a character wearing a shirt reading “You’re not white, stupid” who says, “Now hand over your hair straightener.”