Pictures don't lie, but photographers can


October 15, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Little Italy restaurateur Guido DeFranco logged onto Martin O'Malley's official City Hall Web site and couldn't BELIEVE his eyes. There were photos of the mayor at the neighborhood film festival, with DeFranco's restaurant in the background. But where was the big Bob Ehrlich campaign sign on the front of Caesar's Den?

"They airbrushed [the sign] out of the pictures!" he e-mailed me. "Amazing."

Exclamation point aside, DeFranco wasn't all that worked up when I got down to his restaurant, which has a Doug Gansler sign and a "Keiffer Mitchell for Mayor" bumper sticker in the window. He wanted me to know he's a registered Democrat, someone who had been a "major booster for O'Malley when he first ran." But Bob Ehrlich is his man now. And in a muted, I-don't-want-any-trouble kinda way, DeFranco said it was strange that a government Web site was hiding that fact.

"I thought it was a little funny," he said. "I guess this stuff gets done every day."

And it does - at the Weekly World News.

Et tu, Baker?

As in Jay Baker, the mayor's official photographer. As luck would have it, on my way from Calvert Street to Little Italy Friday, I passed City Hall and spotted Baker out front. I stopped and related DeFranco's complaint. Baker said he was in a hurry and didn't know what photos I was talking about. I pulled out the pictures I'd printed from the site and asked if he'd made an Ehrlich sign disappear.

"I don't know. I don't recall right now," he said before hurrying off.

Don't recall? Is Photoshop such a big part of your taxpayer-funded workday that you could alter pictures and not remember?

O'Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said: "City cameras adjust for slight imperfections."

Down at the restaurant, I saw the Ehrlich sign above the black awning, just to the left of the word Caesar's. Of course, that doesn't mean it was there on Aug. 25, when O'Malley was.

DeFranco swears that the Ehrlich sign - along with a second one, on the other side of the building - was up at least two weeks before the festival. He said they were posted the same day because they needed a ladder for the job.

Barring a Photoshopping scheme on the governor's part, we can assume the second sign was there on Aug. 25. The state Web site shows a photo of Ehrlich playing bocce at the festival that day. Behind him are Caesar's Den and a blue Ehrlich sign.

In cyberspace, anyone can be the mayor

It's not unusual for public officials to bark at reporters about stories they don't like. But The Sun's Julie Bykowicz still was surprised by the e-mail she got this past week from "Martin O'Malley."

"Please report the entire story," it began. "This is why few people read The Sun. There was more to it then just what you wrote or remembered or remembered to write. Good luck in the future."

Wow! Could the mayor be THAT touchy about a story (about the Sheila Dixon-Pat Jessamy spat) that only referred to him in passing?

Even more distressing: Is it possible that the leader of a major American city doesn't know the difference between then and than?

The return address was - the official e-mail address for hizzoner, listed right there on the city Web site.

But that wasn't the mayor spouting off, said spokeswoman Raquel Guillory.

For one thing, the address is not O'Malley's personal e-mail account. Hate to break it to all of you out there who have used that address to share your personal pothole pet peeves with the mayor, but those messages don't go straight to O'Malley's ever-buzzing BlackBerry. An aide in his office sorts through the messages and often replies on his behalf.

The aide wasn't behind the snippy message either, Guillory said.

Turns out it's distressingly easy to send spoof messages through Web sites like The Sun's, which invites readers to e-mail reporters and asks them to type in a return address, no questions asked.

O'Malley, by the way, knows then from than, Guillory assured me.

"Absolutely," she said. "As a matter of fact, whenever I send him an e-mail, I always thoroughly check it for spelling because he's very meticulous about that."

Connect the dots

Did New Yorker cartoonist Paul Noth have Maryland's puppy-centric U.S. Senate race in mind when he drew the one in the Oct. 16 issue, with a pol pulling out a pooch on Meet the Press? ("You know," he says, "during these debates there's something that all too often gets ignored.") "It is a coincidence," said Noth, who drew it about a year ago, who lives in New Jersey and who hadn't heard of Michael Steele's puppy ads before I called. "You don't have to say `coincidence.' You could say I was prescient about the political climate." ... Kristen Cox shows up in Glamour, with a group of "rising stars." Under "unboring bio," the magazine says that Cox "likes to skydive - despite the fact that she's been legally blind since age 11." Campaign spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver says Cox probably hasn't jumped in years. But it must take a daredevil to run for Lt.G.

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