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Manufacturing Inclusion the Fields Way

The New York Post reports that some of the real people in her notorious campaign photo (aside from the two Asians) were not aware of their inclusion in the flyer and have not endorsed her. David Givens, former chair of Community Board 11, claimed it was misleading, which contradicts Fields' effort to make a convincing argument otherwise.

Robert George (also of the Post) suggests a fake photograph cannot make up for lack of substance or credibility.

Glenn Thrush from Newsday perhaps had the best line: "See Virginia squirm."

Maggie Haberman of the Daily News reports that John Ruiz, a candidate for Phil Reed's City Council seat was "shocked" that he was included in the photo, and that he has not endorsed anyone in the Mayor's race. William Moore, also in the photo, said he is likely to support Ferrer.

For these stories, and more, click below.

NY Post

July 7, 2005 -- One of the people shown in a doctored photograph created by Virginia Fields' campaign yesterday expressed outrage that he is being used in the flier. "I was shocked," David Givens, former chair of Community Board 11, told The Post.

"If you're going to put my photo in campaign material, please tell me. I haven't endorsed her."

Givens, who recalled standing next to Fields at a press conference she held as Manhattan borough president 18 months ago, called her office to complain.

"They told me they already pulled it," he said.

"It was misleading," he added. "When you're waking up in the morning and friends and family are calling saying, 'Your picture is in the News and The Post,' you're thinking, 'My God, what have I done?' "

Givens said he recognized everyone in the photo - except for two Asian-Americans - as people who attended a press conference with Fields about the Second Avenue subway.

Trying to stem the political fallout, Fields blamed a direct-mail company for the fake photo, in which people of different ethnicities were made to appear alongside Fields.

The Democratic hopeful said the direct-mail firm, Winning Direction, had sent the campaign a dummy flier - with the composite phot - just to give campaign officials an idea of how it would look, but it was never have supposed to have been distributed to voters.

At a press conference on the steps of City Hall steps, Fields read a statement from the direct-mail outfit in which it said it "regrets the mistake."

The controversial "picture" features a multi-ethnic group that was intended to make Fields appear "inclusive" - two Asian-Americans, one white male, four black males, one black woman and one Hispanic woman.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg's campaign mailed out a brochure with what it said were real cops- in fake uniform - to comply with NYPD regulations.

The "Safest Big City in America" flier shows Bloomberg with people in uniforms with "collar brass" on their lapels, indicating they are from the 21st and 31st precincts, which don't exist.

A campaign spokesman, Stu Loeser, said the officers are real but they had to wear fake uniforms - and appear in a fake station-house setting - because it would be against regulations to use on-duty cops.

As far as he knows, Loeser said, there's no prohibition on cops appearing in campaign literature when they're not on duty.

"The people who look like cops are cops," said Loeser.

-- Additional reporting by Larry Celona

NY Post

July 7, 2005 -- One hopes C. Virginia Fields is learning an important lesson this week: A candidate for mayor preaching diversity needs more than a Martin Luther King Jr. connection and a computer-generated picture.

Especially if everyone knows the picture is fake.

Martin Luther King Jr. once shared a dream of universal brotherhood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Yesterday, Fields sought to escape a nightmare of Photoshopped brotherhood on the steps of City Hall.

Here's the Manhattan borough president's official explanation for how her consultants (accidentally, they now say) came to merge different pictures to show a multicultural press conference that never was: It was a "graphic representation" to denote the fact that she is for "all New Yorkers."

Ironically, yesterday's bid for damage control was an "inclusive multicultural press conference" - several black faces, a couple of whites, an Hispanic with a "Latinos con C. Virginia Fields" poster - and a couple of Asians.

But as she strove to explain the "collage," the words she actually needed to confront were "authenticity" and "credibility."

As campaign "crimes" go, Photoshopping is a misdemeanor. But questions of credibility pose a problem for any candidate. And especially for one whose campaign is built upon her biography.

The leading paragraph in the now-pulled flier reads: "At the age of 17, C. Virginia Fields was arrested with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and spent six days in Birmingham, Alabama's infamous jail."

Yesterday, Fields returned to the theme: "My life, my work and my commitment speaks to inclusion throughout the city and particularly this borough. It is an insult to suggest otherwise."

No one disputes that her '60s moment was defining. But what about today? Inclusion, fine. What else?

And what does it say that the campaign allows something like this faked photo? We believe in inclusion so it doesn't really matter if this isn't actually real. It's the thought that counts.

Fields even admits that she didn't know the two Asian people in the collage - or if they support her candidacy. Maybe all you need is the appearance of inclusion?

More irony: She also insisted defiantly that she "won't be deterred by a few who raise issues where there weren't any." In fact, this controversy- like Freddy Ferrer's damaging revival of the Diallo controversy- is self-generated. It didn't come from the outside - unless Fields considers her consultants, Winning Directions, "outside."

As for raising issues "where there weren't any," well, the photo flap is getting attention largely because, when it comes to issues in this campaign, well ... there really aren't any.

Fields (like her opponents in the primary) has presented hardly any substantive positions on economic development, housing, the budget, whatever- that, uh, sharpens her image. Mainly, she just claims she wants to be "A Mayor for All New Yorkers."

Sure, that's a more positive statement than Ferrer's old "Two New Yorks" theme. But it still requires her to jump on a "racial" issue to help define her - a la last week's statement that the Howard Beach attack proved a lack of "moral leadership" in a city with "far too many hate crimes in recent years."

OK; as with any crime, even one is too many. But where is the substance, the vision of what C. Virginia Fields wants to do - on this or any issue?

As this incident, um, illustrates, anybody can put together a photo-op. But in the end, there has to be some reality behind it, too.

C. Virginia Fields tries damage control over doctored photo
July 7, 2005

See Virginia squirm.

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields held an emergency news conference Wednesday to control the damage wrought by revelations her mayoral campaign had doctored a photo in a multicultural campaign flier to include two unknown Asian nonsupporters.

The composite photo, first reported in the New York Press last week, shows the Manhattan Borough president at a news conference standing beside several people, including an Asian man and woman -- selected by Fields' ironically named direct mail company, Winning Directions.

"By and large, I knew all of [the people in the montage], except the two Asians in there, I don't know them," said Fields, who conspicuously surrounded herself with Asian backers on the steps of City Hall.

The borough president, whose campaign has capitalized on front-runner Fernando Ferrer's gaffes, recently hired campaign manager Chung Seto, who is Chinese, the highest position held by an Asian-American in any campaign.

Fields blamed the tactic on the company and promised to "withdraw" the mailing -- although it has already been shipped to voters throughout the city. Winning Directions will continue to create her mailings and no heads will roll, she said.

Both of the people in the photo had attended Fields' events, but are not supporters, according to an official with knowledge of the situation.

Ominously, Fields refused to rule out the existence of other doctored photos, saying her staff was looking into the matter.

The presser had a weird Watergate aura, with a rattled Fields saying she wanted to make it "perfectly clear" no wrongdoing had been done, TV reporters inexplicably referring to her as "Madam President" and one TV person asking her "who ... knew what, when?"

Fields blames sham on flacks
July 7, 2005

Mayoral hopeful Virginia Fields blamed a consultant yesterday for inserting a pair of anonymous Asians into a campaign photo, but said it was no diversity deception.

Several people in the doctored photo said they were surprised to end up in a campaign mailing. And the identity of the Asian couple whose image was superimposed over a Fields supporter remained unknown.

"By and large I know all [those pictured], except the two Asians," said Fields, who blamed the gaffe on San Francisco-based Winning Directions. She said the flyer has been pulled.

There was "no intent to mislead, trick or confuse the public about any photo that was shown in my literature," Fields said at a City Hall news conference, where she was surrounded by a multi-ethnic crowd.

The firm retouched a photo of Fields at an April 14, 2004, news conference in which she discussed the Second Ave. subway with Community Board members and district leaders. Fields said the photo did not give the impression that those pictured were backing her. But some in the photo disagreed.

"I was shocked," said John Ruiz, a district leader who is running for the seat of term-limited City Councilman Philip Reed (D-East Harlem). "I haven't endorsed anyone in this race."

Also pictured was Geoff Eaton, chief of staff to Reed and believed to be a supporter of City Council Speaker Gifford Miller.

William Moore, another district leader who appears in the photo, said he backed Fernando Ferrer last time and likely will again, though he said he "loves" Fields.

Chuck Warren, chairman of Community Board 8, said that "even though I like Virginia Fields," he would prefer the photo not be used, since he also chairs the League of Conservation Voters and hasn't made any personal endorsements.

Fields said she accepts the company's "acknowledgment addressing their grave mistake in taking responsibility for this blunder."

Fields angrily rejected critics' claims that she had to fake support from diverse groups.

"My life, my work ... speaks to inclusion, and it is an insult for anyone to suggest anything otherwise," she said.

The New York Sun
July 7, 2005
Fields Photo Is `Graphic Representation'
by Jill Gardiner

After being criticized for including a doctored photo in a campaign mailing, Democratic mayoral candidate, C. Virginia Fields, tried to control the damage yesterday, but seemed to raise some new questions.

Ms. Fields, borough president of Manhattan, said the photo, which featured her in the center of an ethnically diverse group at what appears to be a news conference, was created by a consulting firm called Winning Directions.

She read a statement from the firm yesterday in which it acknowledged its misstep and said the image was intended as a "graphic representation" of her broader campaign message. A receptionist who answered the phone at the firm later in the day said officials there would not comment further.

Ms. Fields said she would immediately discontinue the mailing. She said that she did not believe there were any other altered photos, but that her campaign would continue an evaluation. She did not take direct responsibility for the error and said suggesting that she "had to use altered photos to show broad-based . could not be further from the truth."

When asked whether she knew all nine people that appear with her in the photo, she said: "By and large, I know all of them except the two Asians that were in there - I don't know them."

City Council Member Charles Barron, who has endorsed Ms. Fields, said the story was "much to do about nothing." An associate professor of government at American University, Candice Nelson, said it sounded "unethical."

The New York Sun
July 7, 2005
ANDREW WOLF on the Mayoral Race

C. Virginia Fields really seems to have fallen into a silly, stupid situation. Her staff, not content with staging an actual photograph for her campaign literature, instead resorted to creating a composite. The photo purportedly shows

All of the people are real, but they have been inserted into the final product from four separate original photos.

Is this wrong? Probably not.The individuals were meant to be emblematic of Ms. Fields's campaign theme of inclusiveness. Is this worse than electronically removing blemishes from her face, or lightening the background so she stands out?

Still, there is a line out there, one that shouldn't be crossed. In one memorable instance in the Bronx special election to fill a City Council vacancy early in 2001, the same technology was used to make it look as if Saikou Diallo, the father of the African immigrant who died in a hail of police bullets, was shaking hands with Edwin Ortiz, a candidate for the vacant position.

It was soon discovered that the face of Mr. Ortiz had been substituted for that of Pedro Espada, the former state senator who was Mr. Ortiz's sponsor. One dead giveaway was the wedding ring on Mr. Ortiz's hand - it was well-known that Mr. Ortiz is gay and unmarried.

Mr. Ortiz lost the race, although probably not just because of this embarrassing incident. He has since left the Democratic Party and joined the Independence Party, in which he led the effort that seized control of the Bronx party organization, delivering it into the hands of the allies of party boss Lenora Fulani.