Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Tom Emmer — he’s no fathead!

Thirty-second political ads are not known for their edification, but emotional manipulation. And of course, visuals are a key weapon.

In 2008, Texas Congressional hopeful Dean Hrbacek decided you could never been too thin, so his campaign sent out a mailer with the lumpy candidate’s head Photoshopped to a much more svelte body.

The folks at MnForward, the new conservative business group formed to get Republican Tom Emmer elected governor, have not resorted to foreign objects, but as you can see below, they set the aspect ratio to “Slenderize” for their inaugural elect-Emmer TV ad.

The image on the left is the candidate’s official Minnesota House of Representative’s photo, the one on the right is a screengrab from the “Creating Jobs. Right Here. Right Now.” ad. Click for a closer view:

It’s a subtle and somewhat silly fib, but trust me, every pixel of these ads is fawned over, so it’s no accident. (By the way, MnForward is not legally allowed to coordinate with the Emmer campaign, so we can only assume they came up with the Slim Fast on their own.) 

To be sure, the stunts are bi-partisan. Just a week ago, Republican Michele Bachmann made a point to defend the whiteness of her teeth after Democrat Tarryl Clark’s “BP” ad drained the Sixth District Congresswoman of all bright colors.

The all-timer in this department didn’t involve feuding politicians, but feuding media, when Fox News crudely manipulated the portraits of two critical New York Times reporters.

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/19/2010 - 12:44 pm.

    Ah, David. Very good eye.

    I couldn’t help it. Was wondering how much manipulation had been done. The new pic has obviously been photoshopped. It has been softened, eye-wrinkles gone, as well as slimmed. If you’d like to see Tom put on (more) weight, see “The Three Faces of Emmer” at:

  2. Submitted by James Hamilton on 07/19/2010 - 12:48 pm.

    I’d like to know old the photo is. He seems significantly younger than in recent press photos, even in the original pic. But then, I expect the same magic is worked on all candidates’ photos.

  3. Submitted by John Reinan on 07/19/2010 - 01:14 pm.

    Speaking as a pudgy, middle-aged guy, the one on the left doesn’t look bad at all to me. Not sure why anyone would see a need to tinker with it.

  4. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 07/19/2010 - 01:46 pm.

    C’mon David: I thought better of you than this. The aspect ration was not set to “slenderize” but “to fit.” It’s clumsy production work, but I don’t think it’s an attempt to slenderize him. This is seen sometimes in news photos in newspapers when a layout editor has made a photo fit a space rather than adjust the space to fit the photo. I doubt if the resulting look is intentional at all. If anything, it makes him look strange with the elongated head.

  5. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/19/2010 - 03:17 pm.

    I’m afraid I have to go with David, Hal. There was definitely some deliberate monkeyshines with that photo. It has been softened – look at the hair – and either that or additional manipulation took away some of the eye wrinkles. This is NOT an accident.

    And as to how much difference some fairly subtle changes make, I did the same for MAK just to see. The “real” MAK – at least one out there under her imprimatur is on the right and a nudged version is on the left. I think it makes a big difference. (Did not retouch wrinkles or soften, only changed aspect.)


    ps. I’d suggest to the Emmer folks that they change the y aspect ration also to cover up the elongated forehead you find objectionable, although I think he looks more distinguished with a long forehead. His original photo has a Neanderthal look to it, but that’s Tom! Margaret looks quite charming in either her touched or untouched picture, but then I am a crazy liberal who likes smart women…

  6. Submitted by Richard Parker on 07/19/2010 - 03:40 pm.

    Hal, I tend to agree with David that every pixel in an ad like this is fawned over, and it isn’t likely that the production folks did an amateurish side-to-side squeeze without keeping the depth in proportion. I don’t think it’s common for a newspaper layout editor to reduce either width or depth without keeping the image in proportion — I know I never did when doing pages or handling photos at the Strib. I’ve always believed that it’s a no-no because it hurts credibility. That said, I have seen squished images in the newspapers on rare occasions since computers became involved, but strongly believe they were clumsy accidents, not a casual technique to fit the photo into the space.

  7. Submitted by Jules Goldstein on 07/19/2010 - 04:08 pm.

    Tom Emmers record of legislative accomplishments is very thin.
    His list of actual proposals is very thin.
    Why shouldn’t his photograph be very thin?

  8. Submitted by Hal Sanders on 07/19/2010 - 05:36 pm.

    I have to disagree, Dick. I fixed too many of them on makeover editions after sloppy editing in the first run. And it was practically always 1 col or 1/2 col mug shots misshapen to fit the prescribed photo box. If every pixel was fawned over and photoshopped to soften the image, why would anyone make the bonehead error of obviously stretching the height of the image? No conspiracy here folks, just a silly error.

  9. Submitted by B Maginnis on 07/19/2010 - 07:28 pm.

    Clumsy accident.

    But indeed a revelatory “story”, Brau.

  10. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/20/2010 - 06:57 am.

    Common, folks. It has obviously been photoshopped. Look at the shoulder extension on one side and compare it to the original…

    According to McClung (in the Strib):

    McClung said the group didn’t ask the ad production firm to change the photo and the ad production firm “didn’t squeeze or change the photo in any way.”

    The first part of this statement MIGHT be true – the ad company may have done this on their own initiative, but the second part is (obviously) not true.

    I actually took the original, made a Windows Movie maker movie, uploaded it to YouTube, played it there and did a screen dump. Also did a screen dump on the Emmer ad on YouTube. Result =

    If you want to see the YouTube test video, itself:

    Is this the slim or the non-slim Emmer?

    This is an example of what happens when you DON’T actually do any manipulation…


  11. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 07/20/2010 - 09:30 am.

    You could say, Emmer is carrying a lot of ‘baggage’ and it’s not on his face

    …but face it, with many among the voting crowd, he no longer carries a lot of weight.

    And as my long departed father used to say about my Uncle Fred whose politics were also a real, mixed-up mess…”Fred isn’t going to do anybody any harm as long as he doesn’t run for public office.”

    Emmer certainly makes dead Fred look almost politically acceptable…go figure.

  12. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 07/20/2010 - 10:19 am.

    Seems to me that with large Marge in the race, democrats would do well to avoid making an issue of the other guy’s size.

  13. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/20/2010 - 10:40 am.

    No one is making an issue of Tom’s size.

    The problem is that (perhaps) you shouldn’t photoshop people to make them look (perhaps) more attractive.

    Actually, Tom looks pretty good in his official photo. He looks open and honest and not particularly large.

    This was just a stupid thing to do. Some Republicans seem to have a hard time in saying “mistakes were made.” Remarks about tips come to mind.

    Also as noted, I gave MAK the treatment, too, although I don’t think it really matters:


    Large Marge is perhaps the level of discourse of some in the GOP?

    On to more important thing -> like the budget?


  14. Submitted by Gregory Lang on 07/24/2010 - 05:28 am.

    With the weight and body mass index of mandatory future Obamacare the middle class will be charged by the pound for health insurance. There will be a “mean testing” clause of that if you are on welfare or obese you have little if any surcharge costs. Basically a “fax tax” for those who have money with the soon to be mandatory Obamacare.

  15. Submitted by Laura Hedlund on 07/24/2010 - 07:28 am.

    I had an emotional reaction to Target donating to Emmer so i did a meetup under boycott Target. Today I & a friend will hold boycott Target sign near the Richfield Target on 494 & Penn. Interested? go to meetup Boycott Target. PS I have no delusions that we will make a serious cut in Target’s bottomline today but in ten years, who know? Today farmer markets and local food tomorrow locally made under wear!

    Target publicly donates to one side. Corporations can now donate UNLIMITED funds. Women who favor strong schools, libraries, fair taxation are Target’s key customers. Why risk aliening more than half their customer base? There is no local place to buy school supplies or underwear. I buy food directly from local farmers. Know where I can buy local underwear? Meetup Boycott Target

Leave a Reply