Thursday, August 4, 2005

It’s That Damned Liberal Photoshop

Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) now has a new nemesis: Photoshop.

During the presidential election recount of 2000, Florida was in a white-hot spotlight, focused on a woman not accustomed to national publicity – then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

Harris’ decision against a ballot recount made her a hero to Republicans and anathema to Democrats. She also was bashed for something else: her makeup.

One Democratic commentator compared her to Cruella DeVil of the Disney movie “101 Dalmatians.” Comic Jay Leno said a cold snap made Florida so chilly Harris “put on a third layer of makeup.”

On Monday, on a conservative radio talk show, Harris, now a congresswoman from Longboat Key running for the U.S. Senate, hit back, blaming newspapers for the criticism and charging that some – without saying which – altered her photographs.

“I’m actually very sensitive about those things, and it’s personally painful,” Harris said when host Sean Hannity asked about her image problems from 2000.

“But they’re outrageously false, No. 1, and No. 2, you know, whenever they made fun of my makeup, it was because the newspapers colorized my photograph,” Harris said.

She didn’t explain what she meant by “colorized.”

Asked Tuesday to point to an altered photograph, Harris and her staff could not.


Most newspapers, including the [Tampa] Tribune, forbid changing photographic images.

“Manipulating an image in any form is not allowed” by The Associated Press, which distributes photos to newspapers nationwide, said David Ake, AP national deputy photography director. “We’re pretty adamant about that. We have terminated people for it.”

Ake was AP photo editor in Florida during the 2000 recount, “and I can tell you we did no manipulation whatever,” he said.

Some political experts say Harris’ charge makes little sense because most Americans got their visual image of Harris from television.

At least two Harris news conferences in November 2000, detailing her decision to enforce a deadline and forbid recount results, got national TV coverage.

“Of course it wasn’t newspapers, it was television,” said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. “I can remember watching her and thinking she learned all the wrong makeup lessons from Al Gore in the debates.”

She actually may not be as far out as she claims; newspapers can distort your image. If you look at her full-length picture in the paper, she’s only three inches tall.