New York Nanny Fraud: Anti-soda ads of amputee photoshopped

Photoshop, not diabetes from drinking soda caused Cleo Berry to lose his leg.

The New York Times reports,

Having played a singing elephant on stages across the country, Cleo Berry is well acquainted with the vagaries of show business. But he still was stunned to learn that he had unwittingly become an amputee in advertisements that New York City is posting to warn of the dangers of diabetes.

Mr. Berry was a struggling young actor several years ago when he accepted $500 to pose for some photographs in a Manhattan studio, he recalled in a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles on Saturday. He had not given those pictures much thought until Friday night, when a friend alerted him that his image — minus one leg — was all over the Internet.

An advertising agency for the city’s health department obtained the rights to use the photo to illustrate its campaign — shown throughout the subway system — against supersize portions of fast food and sugary sodas. To emphasize that consuming too much of those foods could lead to diabetes and the amputation of limbs, the agency edited away the lower half of Mr. Berry’s right leg and conjured up a pair of crutches.

“I was beyond shocked,” Mr. Berry said, recounting his reaction to seeing himself portrayed as ailing and crippled. “I cried at my computer screen for, like, a minute.”

Then, after studying the ad more closely, “I said: ‘Oh my gosh, they even gave me crutches. Come on, people.’ ”

Mr. Berry, 27, said he supported the city’s efforts to educate people about the dangers of diabetes, but he said he disagreed with the use of a manipulated image of an able-bodied person, instead of an image of a real victim of the disease.

“You are New York City, for God’s sake,” he said. “Give it to us the right way or we won’t believe you at all.”

He said he had answered an ad for the photo shoot because the $500 it promised would help pay his rent. He remembered liking the photographer, Morten Smidt, though said he did not understand that the pictures were for a stock photo agency, Image Source. But he acknowledged that he had signed a standard release allowing alteration of his image.

After the modification of the photo was exposed last week, city officials defended the practice as common in advertising.

Howard Wolfson, a deputy mayor, wrote on Twitter that his grandmother had lost a leg to diabetes. “She would not have appeared in an ad,” Mr. Wolfson wrote. “Doesn’t make her loss less real to have it depicted by another.”

John Kelly, a spokesman for the health department, said in a statement: “This issue isn’t about one actor but rather the 700,000 New Yorkers who struggle with diabetes, which kills 1,700 people a year and causes amputations in another 3,000. Advertising to warn the public about health concerns saves lives, and we will continue our efforts to warn New Yorkers about diabetes.”

Although only the bottom of his face is shown in the ads, Mr. Berry said he was immediately concerned about the effect this depiction could have on his career as an actor.

He moved to Los Angeles a few years ago and has landed some roles in movies and on television; he played a hotel concierge last season on the Fox series “House.”

Sure, he is large enough that he tends to play parts reserved for big and tall men, including Horton the elephant in a touring company of “Seussical,” the musical. But he says he is healthy and agile.

“I’ve always wanted my photo in an ad all over the city, but I was hoping it would be for a TV show or something, not — this,” Mr. Berry said.

He even offered to represent the health department’s archenemy, possibly for less than his usual rate. He said if a soda company “would like to call me so we can do a commercial, I’ll sing and dance for them and I won’t charge an arm and a leg.”

11 thoughts on “New York Nanny Fraud: Anti-soda ads of amputee photoshopped”

  1. The signature most certainly covers this, and many other alterations. Sorry, but this guy signed away the rights to those photos, so he hasn’t a leg to stand on. Legally, that is. And anyone who says increased consumption of junk food and sugars doesn’t contribute to diabetes is at best misinformed. And yes, the US is in a terrible state with truthfulness – are you only just realizing this?

  2. Too bad politicians can’t understand the effect lying to the public has on their credibility and the public’s acceptence of their message(s). I lost a brother to diabetes. It is a serious illness that deserves serious attention. Truthful advertising is so much more effective than a pack of lies in the name of good works. Doesn’t anyone remember the falicy of, “The ends justify the means?” anymore.

  3. Aw Cmon Lazlo if there are far more fraudulent examples than this US advertising and the US is in a real bad way! You cant say the signature covers this sort of cr*p! If the US Law says it can then thats in a bad state too! Worse than pretending someone lost their leg! C’mon! Speaking as a Type 2 diabetic (who can dance too-sadly cant sing!) and my mother was too (neither of us drank much soda or consumed anywhere near as much sugar as the average US citizen-neither of us was overweight either) it does not help a good case to be dishonest-ever period!!!!

  4. “You are New York City, for God’s sake,” he said. “Give it to us the right way or we won’t believe you at all.”

    Sucker. It’s no accident that the apocryphal “bridge for sale” is the BROOKLYN Bridge.

  5. The fraud comes from a Government Agency – that positions themselves in a place of authority.

    They chose Mr Berrys’ picture because he is a BIG person – what message does that send?
    “Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight. ”
    “Cut your potions cut your risks” Is the claim – Is it an honest claim? – What risk? The chance of having type 2 diabetes – The chance of not losing a limb?
    .diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-myths/

  6. “But he acknowledged that he had signed a standard release allowing alteration of his image.”

    C’mon people – first he says it’s ok, then he cries foul? Sorry, but he signed the paperwork. And if you’re worried about truth in advertising, this is a weak place to start bitching. There are more, far more, egregious examples of fraudulent advertising in NY – just look around. He’s trying for his 15 minutes any way he can. Go for it, but a signature is a signature.

  7. “Howard Wolfson, a deputy mayor, wrote on Twitter that his grandmother had lost a leg to diabetes. “She would not have appeared in an ad,” Mr. Wolfson wrote. “Doesn’t make her loss less real to have it depicted by another.”

    Does it make it more real to have her loss depicted in fraudulent advertising?

  8. Howard Wolfson wrote that his grandmother had lost a leg to diabetes. So to what does Mr. Wolfson attribute the loss of half the function of his left brain?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.