CVS, Walgreens, Stop & Shop Won't Sell Rolling Stone's Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Issue

Rolling Stone decided to make a profile of Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the cover story of their next issue, but their choice of cover photo has upset many Americans and led to a boycott from three retail chains. 

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Rolling Stone decided to make a profile of Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the cover story of their next issue, but their choice of cover photo has more than few people baffled and upset. (update: It's also prompted a growing number of retail chains to boycott the entire issue) The layout, which is being described as "shocking" and "offensive," resembles any number of rock star images that have graced the magazine over the years... and that's exactly the problem. Many people feel that the photo the editors chose makes Tsarnaev look like a smoldering teen heartthrob and not the accused murderer and terrorist that he is. 

A few people have pointed out that the magazine has featured plenty of villains and criminals on its covers in the past, including Charles Manson in 1970. And the magazine (like other publications) only has a few photos of the man to choose from, which is why we've actually seen this image in several other places before, including The New York Times (and this website.) But the combination of Tsarnaev's casual, glamorous appearance with the famously "cool" magazine's attitude just isn't sitting well with most people.

The online reactionwith thousands of tweets and comments on the magazine's Facebook page, was almost universally against the cover, some vowing to never buy Rolling Stone again.

Ironically, even the small community of "Free Dzhokhar" zealots, who are unabashed fans of Tsarnaev (and his looks) are against the cover too, believing the story and the use of the word "monster" in the headline will unfairly prejudice people against him.

Of course, what is getting lost in the outrage is the substance of the actual story, written by contributing editor Janet Reitman, which has not been posted online. (Update: The full story is online now, along with an explanatory non-apology for the cover.) It promises an in-depth look at Tsarnaev's personal history and a chronicle of his drift toward radical Islam and terrorism, but it may be overshadowed by this cover controversy. The article could be sympathetic or gut-wrenching or grippingly informative, but it's likely that most of the people who see the cover will never read it, and even fewer people will get to discuss it seriously.

Update (12:50 p.m.): The CVS pharmacy chain announced this afternoon on their Facebook page that they will not sell this particular issue of Rolling Stone in their stores out of respect for the victims. CVS, which is the second largest pharmacy in the country, is based in Rhode Island. Tedeschi Food Shops is also refusing to sell the magazine.

Update (2:40 p.m.): Rolling Stone has published the full story online, along with this editor's note, defending the cover choice:

Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. 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

Update (3:20 p.m.): Two more retail chains have joined the boycott: another major pharmacy chain, and a New England-based grocery store chain. Walgreens and Tedeschi Food Shops have also opted not to sell the August issue of Rolling Stone. Walgreens announced on Twitter that they wouldn't sell the issue in question:

While Tedeschi Food Shops posted the following note to Facebook:

Update 3:40 p.m.: Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has also weighed in on the cover. "Your August 3 cover rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment," it begins, while acknowledging that "there may be valuable journalism behind your sensational treatment." Here's the letter, via the Boston Globe:

Update, 6:48 p.m.: Stop & Shop, another major New England-based grocery store chain, won't sell the Rolling Stone issue either, according to a short statement sent to The Atlantic Wire.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.