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FAKED RACIAL DIVERSITY: This banner image appeared on Colorado Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff's Web site. The image is photo composite of at least three different photos. (Credit: The Denver Post)

Is it OK to Photoshop a few pictures together so that the final result presents an image of a scene that never happened?

Colorado politician Andrew Romanoff and his campaign staff would have you think so.

Until April 16, Romanoff’s Web site featured a doctored photo that combined at least three different photos and moved minorities closer to the politician, The Denver Post reported. The faked diversity photo was removed after complaints that the composited image was offensive.

The Denver Post reported April 16 that while the minorities edited into the photo were at the rally for Romanoff, a Democrat running for a U.S. Senate spot for Colorado, but they were definitely not standing where the altered photo shows.

The Colorado Independent reported  April 16, that “The banner montage uses as its anchor a photo that appears large on the opening page of the Romanoff website. Two other shots are pasted in and one of the photos is a snap of Denver School Board candidate Andrea Mosby.”

The Denver Post’s The Spot, which broke the story on April 14, blogged that Mosby, who was not standing next to Romanoff in reality, said she doesn’t mind a picture of her being photoshopped next to Mosby.

Romanoff’s staff originally defended the photo but ended up removing it April 16, The Denver Post reported.

The Denver Post blogged that Teicher told columnist Susan Greene “Those minority folks were absolutely at the rally…We were just simply moving around random people for aesthetic reasons. It’s absolutely an accepted technique. Every campaign does it.”

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Really?  Altering photos to give a false impresssion that something happened –that didn’t –without disclosure is never “an accepted technique” in StinkyJournalism’s view.

The Denver Post reported that a letter of complaint signed by 25 people including minority leaders was sent to Romanoff.  Some of the signatories are supporting Romanoff’s primary opponent, Democrat Michael Bennet, The Colorado Independent reported.

The letter reads:

“’These minority folks’ write to you today shocked, disturbed and outraged. Please allow this letter to serve as notice that we are NOT random people to be moved around for aesthetic reasons. We are NOT political pawns to be used when convenient nor do we accept being manipulated and repositioned when it serves one’s political motives. The ‘photoshopping in’ of minorities is not acceptable and falls far short of the integrity we expect of candidates running for the US Senate.”

Romanoff issued a statement on the photo April 16, The Spot blogged.  In it, Romanoff said a volunteer made the “montage” of photos for the Web site and that he regretted any offense the montage caused.  The photos were removed from the Web site, but Romanoff wrote that he was offended that it has been suggested the photo montage was intended to deceive.  (If the banner was, in fact,  an arty montage, why were the various images so carefully welded together to trick the eye that it’s a real photo and hides the seams?)

The Denver Post columnist Susan Greene wrote April 15, that the photoshopping on Romanoff’s page wasn’t OK:

“It’s one thing to digitally erase a zit from a candidate’s forehead or touch up his open zipper.  It’s quite another to literally cut and paste photos of people into the emblem of a political campaign, especially when that campaign has made a talking point of ‘integrity.’”

This isn’t the first time iMediaEthics has reported on photos altered to give a faked appearance of diversity.  In 2000, the University of Wisconsin fessed up to doctoring promotional photos to show a more diverse campus; and last year, the city of Toronto was called out for altering photos in its “Fun Guide” to present a more diverse family.

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Doctored Photo on Website for Colorado Politician Andrew Romanoff added fake diversity

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