The tabloids are painting John F. Kerry as an out-of-this-world figure.

The New York Post's front page Tuesday featured a huge picture of the Democratic presidential nominee-to-be in a spacesuit, crawling out of the shuttle Discovery at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Next to the headline ("BOSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM") and a description of Kerry's "ridiculous outfit," Rupert Murdoch's paper ran a shot of Woody Allen dressed as a sperm from the movie "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask."

The same Kerry photo ran in the Boston Herald, whose front page this week has been devoted to Kerry-bashing, with the story comparing his donning of the "clean suit" to 1988 nominee Michael S. Dukakis's flub of riding around in a tank. (The Herald's banner headline, "TERESA'S TED K TIRADE," spotlighted some remarks that Kerry's wife made in a 1975 book.) The in-your-face pictures landed like a meteor, with cable networks showing them throughout the day.

Kerry spokesman Phil Singer said Kerry was required to wear the suit. "Given the challenges facing our nation today, you'd think these papers could find something better to write about," he said. Campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, asked by Fox News whether NASA's release of the photo was a dirty trick, said: "Well, what do you think?" No photos were supposed to be taken, she said.

But Kennedy Space Center spokesman Mike Rein said a video was made of Kerry "as we have done for the last 40 years." He said that NASA takes such footage because of the "very confined and hazardous area" and that the pictures are always made public.

New York Post Editor in Chief Col Allan said he was just having "a bit of fun." Asked if he was trying to make Kerry look silly, Allan said: "He needs no help from us."

-- Howard Kurtz

John F. Kerry was required to wear a "clean suit" while touring the space shuttle Discovery at NASA headquarters, his spokesman said.