He may be Time’s Man of the Year, but he looks like the thug of the week.
The unsmiling visage of House Speaker Newt Gingrich staring from the magazine’s cover bristles with dark stubble. His wrinkles and jowls are prominent. His skin has an orange glow. A purple splotch makes its way from his right eye to the bottom of his nose.
“They gave him Nixon’s 5 o’clock shadow,” said Tony Blankley, Gingrich’s spokesman. “It must have taken special artwork on the part of their team. It’s surrealistic.”
The brutally explicit mug shot matches the mixed tone of the Man of the Year story, which says the Georgian has dominated the national agenda “ruthlessly, brilliantly, obnoxiously … a sometimes unlovely blur … a display of discipline that is either impressive or scary.”
“Remember … it’s not necessarily ‘congratulations Newt,”’ Time columnist Margaret Carlson said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “Hitler was on the cover twice. Stalin was on the cover.”
Time executives say the photo, set against a neon-green-and-yellow background, was not altered in any way. “It wasn’t as though we said, ‘Gee, this one’s more unflattering, let’s use this one,”’ said Arthur Hochstein, Time’s art director. “Our intent was to do a very straightforward portrait of him. …
“I don’t think we uglified him. He looks human.”
Time spokesman Robert Pondiscio said questions about the picture were ironic in light of the controversy last year when Time electronically darkened a photo of O.J. Simpson. “We’re kicked around if we alter a cover and kicked around if we don’t.”