Rolling Stone magazine has responded to the controversy it ignited by putting Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of its August issue, stating that the decision to feature Tsarnaev is in line with the magazine’s “long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of important political and cultural issues.”
“Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families,” the magazine’s editors said in a 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 magazine is drawing harsh criticism that it glorifies the alleged bomber, and two retailers have decided not to stock the issue.
The cover, often reserved for rock stars and top celebrities, features the 19-year-old teen suspect in a photo taken from one of Tsarnaev’s social media accounts. In the photo, Tsarnaev is sporting shaggy hair and staring intently into the camera. The headline on the cover reads, “The Bomber. How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.”
Today Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wrote a letter to Rolling Stone publisher, Jann Wenner, calling the issue “ill-conceived” and saying that it “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 wrote. “‘There may be valuable journalism behind your sensational treatment, though we can’t know because almost all you released is the cover.”
The pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens today announced that they will not stock the issue.
“CVS/pharmacy has decided not to sell the current issue of Rolling Stone featuring a cover photo of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect. 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 company said in a statement.
Walgreens announced it will not sell the magazine’s issue on Twitter this afternoon.
“Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Walgreens will not be selling this issue of Rolling Stone magazine,” the company tweeted.
More than 6,000 people have left comments on the legendary magazine’s Facebook page, most denouncing Rolling Stone’s decision to feature Tsarnaev.
“I think it’s wrong to make celebrities out of these people,” one person wrote on the magazine’s Facebook page. “Why give the guy the cover of Rolling Stone? TIME gave Charles Manson the cover and all the magazines carried pictures of the Columbine shooters on the covers, too. Don’t make martyrs out of these people.”
Another person wrote, “Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs, should be on cover.”
Rolling Stone published a preview of Janet Reitman’s story online Tuesday, including “five revelations” uncovered in the article. One of the revelations sheds light on Tsarnaev’s feelings about the 9/11 terrorist attacks:
“Jahar never spoke about 9/11. Once, though, he let slip to a high school friend that he thought the terrorist attacks could be justified, and pointed to US policies towards Muslim countries and US drone strikes and other attacks as his rationale.”
The magazine says Reitman spent two months talking to “childhood and high school friends, teachers, neighbors and law enforcement agents” about Tsarnaev and the investigation into the bombing.
Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty last week to 30 counts associated with the bombing. Tsarnaev is accused of working with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, to set off a pair of bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon April 15, killing three and injuring more than 260 others.