BBC Accused of Photoshopping Jeremy Corbyn’s Hat to Look More ‘Russian’

The BBC is at the center of a controversy in the UK after its news program Newsnight was accused of Photoshopping politician Jeremy Corbyn‘s hat in a photo to make the opposition leader look more “Russian.”

During a discussion about escalating tensions with Russian that aired last Thursday, the BBC Two program displayed a background image showing the Kremlin and a stylized photo of Corbyn.

Critics were quick to point out that Corbyn looked like he was wearing a Soviet-style hat in graphic, and a comparison with the original photo showed that the hat seems to be noticeably different (including in its shape). Here’s a comparison that has been circulating:

Redditor LeftWingScot made a GIF that compares the two images above:

When left-wing writer Owen Jones appeared on Newsnight the following day, he criticized the BBC for the edited photo, saying: “What sort of country do we live in where the media constantly tries to portray the leader of the opposition, who was the only one who stood up in solidarity with Russia’s opposition… as an agent of foreign powers?”

“The media framing has been a disgrace and I have to say that includes your own program,” Jones said during his appearance. Yesterday the background of your program you had Jeremy Corbyn dressed up against the Kremlin skyline, dressed up as a Soviet stooge.

“You even photoshopped his hat to look more Russian. People should complain to the BBC about that kind of thing.”

BBC journalist John Sweeney was also questioned about the photo by Alex Salmond on Salmond’s show yesterday.

“Let’s try to work out if the BBC did or did not photoshop the Jeremy Corbyn image,” Salmond says.

“No it didn’t, no it didn’t,” replies Sweeney.

“I’m looking at this image, there’s no doubt that in the picture of Jeremy Corbyn of a perfectly respectable hat with a peak, seems to have been transformed into red picture of Jeremy Corbyn against the Kremlin and the peak of the hat seems to have disappeared,” Salmond says.

Sweeney continues to defend the photo, saying: “It wasn’t Photoshopped.”

BBC acting editor Jess Brammar also denied that the photo had been materially altered this weekend through a series of Tweets.

Brammar touches on one fact that doesn’t seem to be receiving too much attention: the fact that the controversial photo is being displayed on a large, curved screen, which introduces distortions.

The BBC actually shared the same edited photo of Corbyn in a Tweet published hours before the program aired:

And when you compare the source photo to this static image, the hat no longer looks like it was stretched vertically (though the change in contrast, which makes the shadow look like part of the hat, is still there):

So if the teaser graphic posted by the BBC is indeed the exact same graphic that ran in the background of the program, then it seems that the curved screen may actually be responsible for stretching the hat out.

But Jones isn’t satisfied with Brammar’s explanation.

“The photo of Williamson is in a suit and his photo remains clear,” Jones writes. “There is no shortage of photos of Corbyn in a suit. A photo was selected which was as Leninesque as possible in combination with a red Kremlin background.”