Rolling Stone defended Wednesday a cover story on Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, which triggered angry claims that it was “glamorizing terrorism” and calls to boycott the US magazine.
At least two US nationwide chain stores announced they would not be selling the latest issue of the publication, known for interviews with rock stars and others.
The cover picture — showing a goateed Tsarnaev, 19, staring sadly at the camera with tousled brown curly hair — was likened to a famous Rolling Stone cover of the late singer Jim Morrison of “The Doors.”
Boston mayor Thomas Menino blasted the story in a letter to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, calling the provocative cover an “obvious marketing strategy” to generate publicity and sales.
“Your August 3 cover 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’,” he wrote.
The Rolling Stones article, titled “The Bomber” on the front page, was described by the magazine as a “deeply reported account of the life and times” of Tsarnaev.
The 12-page story is based on interviews with dozens of sources that “deliver a riveting and heartbreaking account of how a charming kid with a bright future became a monster,” it said.
Versions of the Tsarnaev photo have previously been reproduced by other outlets, but Rolling Stone’s use of the image has irked many in a country still shocked by the carnage at this year’s Boston Marathon.
Tsarnaev faces a 30-count indictment — including 17 counts punishable by death — for his role in the April 15 twin blasts at the city’s marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 260.
Thousands took to Rolling Stone’s Facebook page Wednesday. “Oh look, Rolling Stone magazine is glamorizing terrorism. Awesome,” posted Adrienne Graham. “I will NOT be buying this issue, or any future issues.”
Rolling Stone defended the story. “Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families,” the magazine said in a statement.
“The cover story … falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the world’s most important political and cultural issues of the day,” it added.
But critics said Rolling Stone should have featured the young boy who perished in the explosions, which are also blamed on Tsarnaev’s older brother Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police several days later.
“Maybe a pic of the little 8 year old boy that was killed by this piece of garbage would have made a better cover,” wrote Tom Guerra. “Cancel my subscription to your publication.”
The comparison to the iconic Rolling Stone cover of Morrison, who died in unclear circumstances in 1971, was pointed out by others.
“New Rolling Stone cover turns the Boston bomber into Jim Morrison,” tweeted Judd Legum of the ThinkProgress political blog, along with side-by-side snapshots of the two covers.
National US drug store chain CVS announced on its Twitter feed that it was boycotting the issue “out of respect for the victims and their loved ones.”
A second US drug store chain, Walgreens, with more than 8,000 stores in the US and Puerto Rico, also announced on Twitter it would keep the issue off its shelves.
Boston-area supermarket chain Roche Bros wrote on the microblogging site: “When we learned of the cover for the current issue of Rolling Stone, we chose not to offer that product for sale in our stores.”
Earlier this month, Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to all charges against him in US federal court.