The next photo in the spread, which accompanies an in-depth profile of the Senator, depicts Graham with a goofy smile rowing a johnboat through a gloomy, flooded backcountry with his 65-pound beer gut hanging over his pants. Wait ... beer gut? And that’s when you realize: These photos were doctored.
And we can’t say the magazine really tried to hide it. On the side of the page containing the first photo, for example, near the binding, GQ credits Corbis for the photo of Graham. Sort of. It actually credits Corbis for everything below the neck. The “Graham head,” according to the photo credit, comes from KRT photos. The full caption reads: “Johnny Buzzerio/Corbis. Graham Head: KRT/Newscom.”
If you’re still confused at that point, the third photo in the spread clinches the Photoshop theory. It’s of Graham wearing a suit, sitting on the floor against the wall of what looks to be a federal building looking fat and dorky with his briefcase open and papers spilling out. His head is far too small for the body he’s been given in this photo. Again, the “Graham head” is credited to KRT.
Inexplicably, the spoofy photos of Graham accompany a serious piece of journalism that has no tone of irony or humor whatsoever, save for the occasional funny aside about his poor sartorial taste and cooking skills, and one the Graham camp generally was pleased with. (Though we’re not sure how they liked the fleeting reference to the mystery of Graham’s bachelorhood.)
Equally as odd, some of the photos that accompany the lengthy piece are real, such as photos of Graham with Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, President Bush and even Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
The story is one thing. The weird Photoshopped pictures, quite another.
“When you figure it out, please let us know,” Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop told HOH. “Bizarre is an understatement!” At least Bishop was laughing.
He said folks in South Carolina sure noticed. TV 21, the Fox affiliate in Greenville, did a little story on the doctored photos, Bishop said. “Frankly, we’re as confused as they are,” he added.
Bishop said Graham decided not to have his staff call GQ to complain, at least not yet. In fact, Bishop said Graham got a chuckle out of the weirdness. “He did laugh, but he doesn’t understand it,” the spokesman said.
Asked why the magazine chose to use such unflattering doctored photos to accompany a journalistic profile of a Senator, GQ’s editor in chief, Jim Nelson, explained in an e-mail, “Yes, as you suspected, the pics are an affectionate spoof. They are all photo illustrations of one of our favorite senators posed as the loner that his positions so often place him as.”