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Lots of folks are bothered by President Obama's hunkish photo on the cover of this month's Washingtonian magazine. Let's leave aside the Hot or Not? issue -- which seems to be the focus of many comments on the magazine's Capital Comments blog. There's a larger issue: Whether the magazine doctored the photo itself.

Susan Moeller, an associate professor at the University of Maryland's journalism school, noted in a column on Huffington Post that the POTUS' swimsuit had changed color from the original photo. And she questioned whether his skin color had also been lightened -- noting that Time magazine had once done the reverse to O.J. Simpson.

Washingtonian has acknowledged altering the swimsuit from black to red, to create more contrast with the background. It said Obama's skin tone was not changed but might seem different because of the glossy paper.

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I'd be horrified if The Baltimore Sun ever made such changes in a photo, and I consider the Time alteration outrageous (the cover was recalled). But the Washingtonian cover is an inevitable step in the entertainment media's scramble for hot-selling issues. For years, in pursuit of the perfect cover shoot, fashion magazines have airbrushed movie stars and other entertainers to within an inch of their lives. (And that pales in comparison to the anorexia-inducing pressures that models endure.) Washingtonian is following that route, sacrificing truth for beauty. And just as I would never take a Vogue or Vanity Fair shot of Demi Moore as a representation of what she actually looks like, I'll hold Washingtonian to that same low standard.

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