Responding to criticism from Sarah Palin that her depiction on the cover of Newsweek was "sexist and oh-so-expected," editor Jon Meacham insists that there is nothing either derogatory or nefarious about the image.
"We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do," Meacham said, in a statement provided to Huffington Post. "We apply the same test to photographs of any public figure, male or female: does the image convey what we are saying? That is a gender-neutral standard."
Meacham's remarks comes as a rash of conservative commentators and Palin defenders have attacked Newsweek for running its cover picture of a pig-tailed former Alaska Governor, legs glistening, wearing short running shorts and holding two Blackberries. The image previously appeared on the cover of Runners World, which means that Palin had, at one point, been fine with its publication. But on Monday evening, she took to her Facebook page to denounce the magazine's editorial decision.
"The choice of photo for the cover of this week's Newsweek is unfortunate," she wrote. "When it comes to Sarah Palin, this "news" magazine has relished focusing on the irrelevant rather than the relevant. The Runner's World magazine one-page profile for which this photo was taken was all about health and fitness -- a subject to which I am devoted and which is critically important to this nation. The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now. If anyone can learn anything from it: it shows why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, gender, or color of skin. The media will do anything to draw attention -- even if out of context."
Inside the magazine, Palin's reaction was expected. But the charges seem to miss the point. The cover was meant to convey a larger point -- expanded upon within the magazine -- that the problems the former vice presidential candidate poses for the GOP are, at once, institutional (see the special election in New York's 23rd District), substantive (see the death panels smear) and image-based (the tea party protests that Palin flames).
As Meacham writes in his editor's note: "[Palin's] political celebrity is so powerful that it has reduced a large part of the Republican Party to irrationality and civic incoherence."
Finally, as for the issue of whether the image is sexist, a source at Newsweek relays that the art and photo directors responsible for the cover (which was decided upon last Thursday) are both women.