I concur with the Star Tribune’s take on U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Newsweek cover photo. The Strib’s Jill Burcum wrote:
The photo isn’t just unflattering. It goes way beyond that, making the three-term Congresswoman look unbalanced. It’s the kind of photo you expect to see in a political attack ad, not on the cover of a mainstream news magazine.
After its photo shoot, Newsweek surely had a large stock of flattering proofs, along with some unflattering ones. Newsweek chose a bad one, and that constitutes a cheap shot.
Burcum also maintains that the Newsweek cover photo decision had a gender component:
Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin is also raising fair concerns about unflattering photos of other conservative women, among them Condoleeza Rice. I’d say that the many ghastly shots of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s cankles and pantsuits through the years suggest gender is the issue, not politics.
I agree that female politicians’ looks get over-analyzed. But then again, Mitt’s plastic hair and expensive suits, Newt’s girth, Huck’s weight loss, Pawlenty’s mullet, John Edwards’ dazzling dental assets, Obama’s shirtless beach shots are hardly ignored in the news media.
Moreover, Bachmann is not the first politician to be portrayed by the media in photos that are markedly less flattering their official photo. Some of the others are liberal, and men.
Visual editorializing cuts across gender and ideology. It is more insidious than verbal editorializing, because it is more subtle and subliminal. News outlets aren’t obligated to use leaders’ official glamour shots every single time. But there is no good reason to go out of the way to show them at their visual worst.