Warning: Some of the images and language in this story are sexually graphic and disturbing.
(CNSNews.com) – The White House is not commenting on then-Sen. Barack Obama’s 2007 ‘portrait session’ in his Capitol Hill office with Terry Richardson, a photographer who was already known at that time the man who “took 1970s porn esthetic and made it fashion chic.”
Ben LeBolt, who served as Obama’s Senate press secretary at the time of the 2007 photo session, and later served as a spokesman for Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, is also not responding to questions about it.
For a week, from Nov. 18 through Nov. 25, CNSNews.com placed repeated calls and sent repeated emails to the White House press office asking White House Press Secretary Jay Carney whether Obama’s Senate or presidential campaign staff was aware of Richardson’s reputation when he visited Obama’s office for the 2007 photo shoot and whether the president regretted extending that opportunity to Richardson.The White House repeatedly said the questions had been “flagged” for answering. But the press office never did respond.
Richardson visited Obama’s office in the Senate Hart Office Building for a “portrait session” that took place on June 20, 2007. The session was set up by Vibe magazine, which was preparing a cover story about Obama, who was then a presidential candidate, for its September 2007 edition.
Well before that photo session, Richardson had developed a reputation for pornography.
The week before the 2007 photo session Penthouse magazine put out a press release announcing that Richardson had done the photography for the magazine’s July 2007 centerfold.
“Who uses his fashion money to fund an X-rated website? Yes, Richardson,” said the flyleaf to Terryworld, a 2004 coffee-table book of Richardson’s photography published by Taschen Books.
“And who can’t resist getting his clothes off and jumping in front of his own lens? Well, that would be Terry Richardson as well,” said the flyleaf. “Welcome to ‘Terryworld,’ the land restraint forgot.”
The book features multiple photos of people involved in sex acts. It also features of photo of an apparently naked Richardson engaged in some kind of physical contact with a sheep.
More recently, Terry Richardson has been in the news for directing Miley Cyrus’ risqué “Wrecking Ball” music video. “Ms. Cyrus's new video, '’Wrecking Ball’ (in which she is filmed largely nude, periodically licking construction equipment), was directed by the fashion world's perennial bad boy, Terry Richardson, and has been viewed 180 million times on YouTube alone,” the New York Times reported in October.
Cyrus publicly thanked Richardson for the video at the European Music Awards on November 10.
Last year, Richardson did a photo shoot of Oprah Winfrey for the November 2012 edition of Harper's Bazaar magazine.
CNSNews.com sent the following questions about Obama’s Capitol Hill photo shoot with Richardson to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney:
1) Was then-Sen. Obama’s presidential campaign or Senate staff familiar with Terry Richardson reputation for “porn chic” photography before they scheduled Obama’s 2007 “portrait session” with Richardson? If not, why not?
2) Does President Obama regret that the campaign let that “portrait session” take place?
3) Does President Obama believe that Terry Richardson’s photography degrades women?
4) Given the credibility he helped give to Richardson by posing for and with him, do you believe President Obama should express regret for having done so given the sexually graphic nature of Richardson’s photography and the way he presents women?
CNSNews.com sent similar questions to former Obama press secretary LeBolt, who now works with former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs at the Washington, D.C.-based Incite Agency.