Kerry-Fonda photo a hoax that hurts the public trust |

Kerry-Fonda photo a hoax that hurts the public trust

In publishing a letter Wednesday from local writer Betty Dawson, the Post Independent unknowingly perpetuated an Internet hoax.

It’s a good reminder that not everything published online is accurate, and that Web pages can distort the truth to push a political or social agenda.

In her letter, Ms. Dawson referred to a photo of presidential candidate John Kerry appearing as a speaker at a 1971 antiwar rally with “the traitor” Jane Fonda standing next to him.

The photo has been circulating on the Internet among groups eager to link Kerry’s antiwar protests to Fonda’s wartime alignment with North Vietnam.

In fact, Fonda’s image was superimposed onto the photo of Kerry. The picture is a hoax.

Here’s the truth:

Photographer Ken Light took the photo of Kerry at an antiwar rally June 13, 1971, in Mineola, N.Y. This year, he sent the photo to Corbis, a New York photo agency. Another photographer, Owen Franken, took the photo of Fonda during a political rally in August 1972 in Miami Beach, Fla. Corbis also carries this image.

Someone grabbed the two photos and used an editing program to merge them into what looks like a single seamless image. The so-called artist also wrote a phony caption that credits the photo to the Associated Press.

AP hasn’t found who made the faked photo, but there’s a stern talking-to awaiting the perpetrator, said George Galt, intellectual property attorney for the AP in Washington, D.C. A second offense could result in a hefty fine, Galt said.

Light, now a photojournalism instructor, expressed his views on the ethics of faked images in a column for The Washington Post, published Feb. 28.

At issue here is the true story of Kerry’s activities as a young man, the distortion and theft of the two photographers’ works, and the credibility of the Associated Press, a vital source of information about the world we live in.

Those of us in journalism want to be sure that when you see an AP photo or news story, you will trust it to be accurate. The person who faked the Kerry-Fonda picture damaged that trust in AP, and by association, Associated Press members like the Post Independent. We have absolutely no sympathy for that kind of funny business.

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