Rolling Stone magazine’s decision to put a picture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, on the cover of its latest issue sparked criticism today from Massachusetts elected officials and vows from a number of stores that they wouldn’t sell the issue.
A friend of a bombing victim also spoke out against the cover picture, while a police officer grievously wounded during a shootout with Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, said the cover was “thoughtless at best.”
Rolling Stone said in a statement that its cover story fell within journalistic traditions and the magazine’s “long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day.”
The twin bombings on April 15 near the Boston Marathon finish line killed three people and injured more than 260 people, shocking Boston and the nation.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a letter to Jann Wenner, publisher of the magazine, that the cover for the Aug. 3 issue “rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment. It is ill-conceived, at best, and re-affirms a terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their ‘causes.’”
Menino said he did not want to feed into the magazine’s “obvious marketing strategy” by responding in anger. Instead, he said, he wanted to put the focus on the “brave and strong survivors and on the thousands of people ... who have come to their side.”
“The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve Rolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel Rolling Stone deserves them,” Menino said.
Governor Deval Patrick said the cover photo, which is accompanied by a profile of Tsarnaev, is “out of taste.”
The CVS, Roche Bros., Tedeschi, Cumberland Farms, Walgreens, and Stop & Shop chains said they would not put the issue on their shelves.
“As a company with deep roots in New England and a strong presence in Boston, we believe this is the right decision out of respect for the victims of the attack and their loved ones,” CVS said in a statement.
Katlyn Townsend — a friend of bombing victim Jeffrey Bauman, who lost both his legs in the bombing — posted an open letter to Wenner on Facebook, saying, “While I respect and support the media’s right to freedom of speech, I do not condone your blatant abuse of that right to sell magazines.”
“Your use of a provocative, borderline sympathetic image and headline of someone who has caused so much pain to our country is appalling, insensitive, and disgusting,” Townsend wrote, demanding that the issue be pulled from newsstands and the Web.
MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard Donohue, who was shot in a confrontation in Watertown when the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly sought to flee town several days after the bombing, said in a statement posted on his department’s blog, “My family and I were personally affected by these individuals’ actions. I cannot and do not condone the cover of the magazine, which is thoughtless at best. However, I appreciate our country’s protection of free speech afforded to us by the Constitution. I am confident that our Boston Strong community will remain intrepid and unshaken by the cover of this magazine.”
The editors of the magazine insisted in their statement, “Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families.”
The statement continued, “The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.”
The cover story, “Jahar’s World,” reveals that Tsaranev played down his Muslim faith at high school in Cambridge, once told a friend that terrorist attacks could be justified, and may have been willing to surrender during a standoff in Watertown on April 19 because of a plea from a former wrestling coach.
Tsarnaev, who went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin before going on to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, is accused of working with his brother, Tamerlan, to detonate the two bombs.
Dzokhar Tsarnaev faces numerous federal charges that could bring him the death penalty. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after allegedly being shot by police and being run over by his brother in a confrontation in Watertown in the early morning hours of April 19.
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