NBC's Doctored Photo Makes Trans Swimmer Thomas Look More Feminine

Jay Maxson | March 21, 2022

Oh, the wonders of graphic design. NBC airbrushed a photo of Penn University swimmer Will “Lia” Thomas to portray him more like a cover girl than a manly man. Thomas won a national women's swimming championship last week, denying women of their rightful places as champions and All-Americans.

In the doctored photo, Thomas has the soft facial skin of a girl. In the original, he looks the part of a man with a rougher face.  

Bizpacreview reported, “During a “Today” segment last week, the network displayed at least one blatantly digitally altered photo, allegedly to give Thomas what critics say is a ‘feminine glow.’ 

“This obvious contrast has led to accusations that NBC News is trying to manipulate its viewers amid the controversy surrounding Thomas.” 


The Todd Starnes World Net Daily website commented: “As if fake news were not fake enough already, now NBC is accused of airbrushing a photograph of collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas to make the transgender athlete appear more feminine.” 

“We’re so old we remember the controversy over TIME magazine darkening O.J. Simpson’s mug shot for its cover, eliciting accusations of racism. And then there’s that photo of the Capitol riot they always use that makes it look like the building’s surrounded by flames. Altering photos is pretty sketchy business. 

“Now we can’t unsee it. Why did NBC News put a soft filter on Thomas’ face?” 

Starnes also remarked that the photo is so obviously doctored that it was an intentional effort to alter the original. He listed several Twitter complaints about the obvious attempt by NBC to make Thomas look more feminine and less of an intruder on women’s sports.: 

  • “Gotta soften that jawline. Lol.” 

  • “Is this to give the ‘feminine’ glow 🙄 pathetic.” 

  • “That’s like what Rolling Stone did to the Boston Bomber when he was on their front page. He looked like [a] glamor model.” 

  • “Yes, and nice job too, totally looks like a woman now 🙄” 

  • “To look less manly? Too bad you need more than an airbrush to conceal other stuff.” 

“It’s pretty damn obvious,” said a report by Twitchy.com.  

Ian Miles Cheong, a well-known social media commenter, Tweeted, “Journalists used to get fired for airbrushing news photographs. Now they're airbrushing Lia Thomas (for obvious reasons) and apparently that is journalism.” 

If NBC was attempting to soften criticism of the male Thomas’s opportunistic exploitation of a women’s sports team, the attempt obviously failed.