Revealed: Why the Bushes Were Left Out of the NYT’s Selma March Photo


After the New York Times infamously left President and Mrs. Bush out of their front page picture of those marching in the front line at the 50th anniversary of Selma, many speculated that they were cropped out:

It’s an easy assumption to make, as the NYT is a notorious liberal rag.

But the NYT public editor found that the problem wasn’t that the paper cropped the photo, but that they never had a photo that included the Bushes in the first place!

I asked The Times’s ranking photo editor, Michele McNally, about the photo this morning.

“There was no crop,” she said. “This was the photo as we received it.”

She sent me an email from the photographer, Doug Mills, who has been shooting White House and presidential photographs for many years.

Mr. Mills wrote to photo editors on Sunday to describe his process after The Times received an inquiry from Politico. Mr. Mills wrote that he never sent the photo desk a photograph that included the Bushes, and his reasons were technical ones. He wrote:

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.

So the photographer only took ONE pic that included the Bushes?? And it was overexposed? Isn’t this precisely the reason photogs take hundreds of shots at events – so if one comes out badly there are plenty of others to choose from? Maybe try again, dude!

The public editor concluded:

The explanation and reasoning by Mr. Mills and Ms. McNally make sense to me.

While it would have been moving and worthwhile to see both presidents in a front-page photograph, I see no evidence of politics in the handling or presentation of the photo.

The explanation from the photo desk might make sense, but not from the photographer.

Evidence of politics in the presentation of the photo might be lacking, as it wasn’t actually cropped as initially thought, but there was in the handling by the photographer!

It’s not like this was some bystander taking a pic with his iPhone and messing it up, this is a NYT photographer.

He couldn’t get at least ONE correctly exposed picture that included a president who had been heavily criticized throughout his term for “not caring about black people” attending the Selma march?

And we’re supposed to believe this is just a coincidence?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below!


Alexa is a freelance writer and communications consultant, with experience working on the Hill, at the RNC, and for... More about Alexa

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