For the second time since Sarah Palin stepped into the national political spotlight, a photo of the former Republican vice-presidential candidate featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine is sparking controversy. Palin herself blasted the “out-of-context” cover as “sexist” on her Facebook page.
Originally published in the August 2009 issue of Runners World, the photo features the former Alaska governor in short runner’s shorts. It was part of a multi-photograph slideshow that accompanied an article about Palin and her love for the sport titled, “I’m A Runner.” In her Facebook post late last night, Palin took issue with Newsweek using a photo from an article about health and fitness to promote an analysis piece contemplating her relevance as a political figure:
“The choice of photo for the cover of this week’s Newsweek is unfortunate. When it comes to Sarah Palin, this “news” magazine has relished focusing on the irrelevant rather than the relevant. The Runner’s World magazine one-page profile for which this photo was taken was all about health and fitness — a subject to which I am devoted and which is critically important to this nation. The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now. If anyone can learn anything from it: it shows why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, gender, or color of skin. The media will do anything to draw attention — even if out of context.
The reaction to the Newsweek cover has predictably sparked outrage from conservative supporters of Palin and kudos from liberals who oppose her. CBN commentator David Brady called the cover “a new low” for the “biased” magazine, adding that Newsweek has a history of portraying liberal women as “heroes for the next generation,” while portraying conservative women like Palin as “nuts and dopey.” Meanwhile, documentary photographer Nina Berman hailed the cover as “brilliant” and “shrewd” for using a “propped photo where Palin is an obvious participant … to show how far out she is willing to travel on the road of self promotion” while “shield[ing] themselves from what would have been the inevitable criticism if they had dolled her up themselves and posed her the same way.”
The current cover flap isn’t the first time Newsweek has generated controversy with a photograph of Palin. The October 13, 2008, issue featured an extreme close-up of Palin that seemed to be devoid of the high-tech retouching often employed by magazines. Conservatives claimed this highlighted some of Palin’s supposed “flaws,” like wrinkles around her eyes.
Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham told Yahoo! News that the photo choice was simply the “most interesting image available”:
“We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do. We apply the same test to photographs of any public figure, male or female: does the image convey what we are saying? That is a gender-neutral standard.”
Brett Michael Dykes