Galliano landed on the front of the New York Post on Wednesday under the headline "Shmuck!" with a photo of the designer wearing a hat and ringlets described as resembling those of a Hasidic Jew. Galliano was fired from Christian Dior two years ago after his anti-Semitic rant was caught on video, and the tabloid said the outfit "ignited a new round of outrage."
Galliano's representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, leapt to his defence.
"Here is a man who made a mistake and he's been on a pilgrimage to try to learn and repair. And people instead of embracing his return are trying to distort and destroy him," Foxman said.
Galliano has been in New York working at the studio of Oscar de la Renta, who invited the designer to return to fashion for the first time since the incident.
Galliano was not in the audience of Tuesday's de la Renta runway show at New York Fashion Week but de la Renta's publicist confirmed he was backstage. The photograph was taken in the street by celebrity photo agency Splash News.
Foxman pointed out that Galliano was wearing blue, not black like a Hasid, and a grey hat without the standard wide brim.
"This is John Galliano, OK? He dresses eccentric," Foxman said. "He has long hair, they're not peyos" — the traditional sidelocks worn by Hasids.
Galliano's unraveling began with run-ins at a Paris cafe where fellow diners said he hurled racist and anti-Semitic insults. Video went viral showing an inebriated Galliano slurring "I love Hitler." He was dismissed from Christian Dior, left his namesake label and was convicted by a French court on complaints of anti-Semitic behaviour.
Galliano has since said he is an alcoholic and has been in recovery for the past two years. In a statement prior to his arrival in New York, he said he "descended into the madness of the disease" and continued to express his sorrow for causing pain to the Jewish community.
Foxman said he had personally spent hours talking with Galliano, and that the designer is meeting with a rabbi and studying Holocaust history. He said the designer had even offered to teach fashion to disadvantaged students in Israel.
"I think this is a malicious distortion, either to continue to destroy this man or to sell newspapers. Take your choice," Foxman said.
"I'm in the business because I believe people can change their hearts and minds, otherwise why bother?" he added. "This is destroying this man again."
AP Fashion Writer Samantha Critchell contributed to this report.