“Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and an unidentified man backstage at the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Dinner,” reads the caption.
“Oh dear. This is a brutal photo caption,” Matthew Gertz, the research director at Media Matters, a left-leaning watchdog group, said on Twitter. As of early Thursday night, his tweet had been retweeted nearly 1,000 times.
Throughout Thursday afternoon, there was a good deal of discussion about whether a caption writer didn't know who the former Maryland governor is or whether The Journal was making a mean joke about O’Malley.
In a statement Thursday evening, Paul Gigot, The Journal’s editorial page editor, made clear it was the latter.
"The caption is a joke about Martin O'Malley's obscurity as a Democratic presidential candidate,” Gigot said. “The photo ran with a column by James Taranto, who sometimes refers to ‘Martin O'Malley, whoever he is.’ Liberals need a better sense of humor."
O’Malley deputy campaign manager Lis Smith responded on Twitter, noting that the piece in question was more than a week old.
“Media Matters staffer takes week old caption out of context. Unlike you, we got the joke,” she wrote, adding a hastag: “#MediaFails”
Other O’Malley boosters -- and some independent observers -- noted that Media Matters was founded by David Brock, a Clinton supporter who is spearheading a super PAC working for her election as president.
The photo that appeared on Taranto’s column was taken by an Associated Press photographer. Among the Twitter traffic Thursday was a tweet that noted O’Malley had been identified by name when the AP first distributed the photo.