Fact Check

Did ODNI Photoshop the Cover of a Diversity Report?

True diversity does not issue from the output of a digital editing program.

Published July 12, 2021

Image Via ODNI
A report from the ODNI used a group photograph that had been altered to include disabled persons.

Did ODNI Photoshop the Cover of a Diversity Report?

One lesson that organizations should have learned by now is not to make groups appear to more diverse than they really are by digitally editing photographs since that type of manipulation is too easy to catch:


Unfortunately, that was one lesson the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) hadn't learned by mid-2021, when that office published their annual demographic report on “Hiring and Retention of Minorities, Women, and Persons with Disabilities in the United States Intelligence Community."

The cover to that report featured a photograph of a group of smiling, well-dressed professionals, including a woman in a wheelchair and a (presumably) visually impaired man wearing sunglasses and holding the leash to a guide dog:

ODNI photoshopped report

A press release about the report quoted the director of National Intelligence as stating the following:

The Intelligence Community should reflect the diverse makeup of America and demonstrate that we are fostering an environment where every professional can succeed,” said Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. “Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is fundamental to our democratic values and critical to meeting the IC’s mission. This takes work every single day. We are committed to doing more to address this critical issue and accelerate our progress.

There's one problem, though.

The image used on the ODNI report cover was a stock photograph from the Shutterstock service, titled as representing "Portrait of Multi-Cultural Office Staff Standing in Lobby." Although the Shutterstock photo may have included women and minorities among the pictured group, it but it didn't include any persons with obvious disabilities:


As multiple social media users pointed out, rather than finding a more representative cover graphic to utilize for the report, someone at ODNI apparently utilized an altered version of the stock photo — a version into which the figures of the woman in the wheelchair and the visually impaired man had been clumsily added via Adobe Photoshop (or some other digital editing program) to create the requisite appearance of diversity:

The ODNI had not responded to our request for comment on the altered image at publication time, but we will update this story if we hear back.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994 as a creative outgrowth of his wide-ranging interests in a variety of subjects (particularly folklo ... read more