Rolling Stone Slammed for Boston Bomber Selfie Cover

The Magazine's Cover Portrays Jahar Tsarnaev as a Pop Star, Critics Say

By Published on .

Rolling Stone magazine is getting slammed for a cover featuring accused Boston bomber Jahar Tsarnaev.

The magazine's cover subjects have drawn their share of controversy over the years, whether it was Charles Manson or Britney Spears. But Mr. Tsarnaev seems to have drawn a far stronger reaction, with online commenters arguing that the photo choice portrays the man allegedly responsible for killing three people and injuring many more as a pop star.

A commenter on Rolling Stone's Facebook page suggested that "Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs, should be on cover." That remark accumulated more than 2,200 "likes"; Rolling Stone's own Facebook post with the cover has just over 1,400.

"A few years ago you had a contest where the most popular unsigned band got the glory of being on the cover of your magazine," another Facebook commenter wrote. "Who knew all you had to do was bomb a bunch of innocent people to have Rolling Stone make you look like a rock star?"

"The RS cover makes the bomber look like the new Jim Morrison," a commenter said on a Rolling Stone blog post promoting the issue. "A star is born and a once-great mag circles the drain."

Some Twitter users seemed to agree:

Tedeschi Food Shops, a New England chain, said on its Facebook page that it will not sell the issue. "Music and terrorism don't mix!" its post said.

CVS stores won't stock the issue either, according to a statement from the company. "CVS/pharmacy has decided not to sell the current issue of Rolling Stone featuring a cover photo of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect," the statement said. "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.

The story, by Rolling Stone contributing editor Janet Reitman, offers new details of Mr. Tsarnaev's life, describing his turbulent family life and embrace of radical Islam. The picture that Rolling Stone used for its cover shot is one that Mr. Tsarnaev took himself -- a "selfie," as it's called. The New York Times put the same image on its front page on May 5, but above a headline that made a point of calling Mr. Tsarnaev's placid appearance misleading: "The Dark Side, Carefully Masked."

Some online commenters have called for Rolling Stone to apologize for its choice of photo, but the magazine has stayed mum on the subject so far. Ms. Reitman referred inquiries to the magazine. A Rolling Stone spokeswoman declined to comment.

UPDATE: Rolling Stone posted a statement atop the online version of the article on Wednesday afternoon. "Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families," said the statement. "The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone's long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. 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 EDITORS"

Most Popular
In this article: