Thomas Menino, Deval Patrick Criticize ‘Rolling Stone’ as Magazine Defends Bomber Cover

Rolling Stone released a statement preceding its cover story on Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after thousands called for a boycott of the magazine and stores pulled it from shelves.

RollingstoneWrote the magazine's editors:

"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."

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who published a letter to Jann Wenner, felt differently:

“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'."

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick also commented:

"I haven't read it, but I understand the substance of the article is not objectionable, it's apparently pretty good reporting. But the cover is out of taste, I think."

Facebook support for a boycott of the magazine more than doubled in the past few hours, as more than 101,000 have weighed in.


  1. Putney says

    This is exactly what Rolling Stone wants – controversy sells more magazines. How stupid are these politicians?

  2. Billy says

    They know the media (Towleroad) will talk about it. Which is the publicity they want.

  3. Mike Ryan says

    Odd, these people never complained when Time ran Hitler on the cover or Vanity Fair ran a naked pregnant Demi Moore or Time ran a picture of OJ Simpson or when the New Yorker cartooned Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim and his wife Michelle as a terrorist.

    Like all infamous criminals, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a celebrity. Live with it.

  4. greg says

    My problem with this cover is it looks like he had sylists who turned him out for a photo shoot. Rolling Stone knew what they were doing when picking this pic for its cover.

  5. Brian in Texas says

    The outrage from this picture only stems from the fact that Dhokar looks appealing in the photo. This is the same photo that was plastered across cable news and websites during the manhunt. It’s a great photo and great cover. Well played Rolling Stone.

  6. deedrdo says

    David Bennett i completely disagree with today’s brouhaha over the Rolling Stone article for several reasons. 1: i have been reading Rolling Stone since the early 70’s. off the top of my head i remember covers with charlie manson, patty hurst and the SLA and the photo of the young Kent State co-ed kneeling over the body of student slain by the National Guard, to name just a few.. all of these events were unarguably acts of terror in their own right and, pre-internet and cable news, i turned to RS many many times to get reliable reporting on important events in our country. this kind of reporting is in their journalistic DNA and i see no reason why they would stop now. 2: i have seen this photo, or one very similar to it, on every network and cable news channel, newspaper, magazine and tabloid in the past. today’s outrage at RS seems misplaced. 3: there has been scant reporting on this man since his capture. we’ve heard a lot about his brother but little about him. i welcome RS’s reporting on an important story that we may all understand how “one of our own” could do what he did. 4: no one was pissed when osama bin laden appeared on every magazine that has ever been printed. what does this say about us, as a country, that we cannot even discuss the things that have happened to us and to try to understand the condition of others? if this photo offends someone while other pictures of equally horrible people do not, then someone has a problem…and it is not Rolling Stone.

  7. Jim says

    Shortly after the bombing this picture was all over the web, in newspapers and magazines, on TV and vids. So now, months later, a picture we’ve all seen scores of times is suddenly controversial–in fact too controversial to be seen. Hello? How did that happen?

  8. Jeff Kurtti says

    The cover supports the story, about innocence and opportunity lost, essentially. The reason people are actually having a problem with it, in my opinion, is the (intentional) contrast (and emotional conflict) of his heinous acts with a doe-eyed young Josh Groban-esque visage. The cover is an expression of the editorial content, and as such, does a good job at eliciting the desired attraction/revulsion reaction.

  9. JonnyNYNY2FLFL says

    I can’t boycott the issue because it (and the cover art) is on my iPad. I wouldn’t boycott it if I could.

    Note that in the digital edition, ROLLING STONE added an explanation to address the controversy, which I found perfectly reasonable.

    The article written by Janet Reitman was well done & worth reading.

    Buy the damn magazine.

  10. John says

    “My problem with this cover is it looks like he had sylists who turned him out for a photo shoot. Rolling Stone knew what they were doing when picking this pic for its cover.”

    Yes, they knew what they were doing. They were chose a photo that goes along with the story about how a promising student became a terrorist. It’s a photo that highlights the boy next door look he has. It’s perfectly captures the point of the article. I fail to see the problem with that.

    Rolling Stone isn’t like People or UsWeekly, which are basically picture magazines. Those magazines basically just sell photos. That’s what people are buying when they pick up InTouch magazine. When people buy magazines like Rolling Stone, they are buying the ideas and stories inside. And with print journalism, photos help tell those stories and paint the narrative. (Playboy seems to have figured out how to do both at the same time.) Those are two very different styles of magazines. Rolling Stone doesn’t seek to profit off the cover image in the same way that People seeks to profit by putting the flavor of the week on its cover. I imagine that most people complaining are more of the gossip magazine “readers” than readers of magazines on current events so they don’t quite get it.

  11. Onnyjay says

    The man has been convicted of nothing, and until and unless he is, all the breast-beating and condemning is nothing more than self-serving hot air. Get a grip, people, it’s a magazine cover, not the Medal of Honor.

  12. LetSodomRing says

    You know, Bin Laden also had his mug splashed on multiple magazine covers. As in this case, it was a photo that Bin Laden chose and approved at some point. And yet, there was none of the backlash that greeted this cover. Yes, it’s true. Not all terrorists are ugly and foreign looking. Sometimes, as in this case, they’re the well put together boy next door.

    Perhaps the revulsion stems from a refusal to realize that normal people can be monsters. And perhaps, in our sometimes addled culture, superficial attractiveness confers similar aspirational qualities to the rest of that person, and people worry that others, even themselves, will now be compelled to commit mass murder.

  13. Caliban says

    Except, Greg, there were no stylists involved. This was a “selfie” he took at some point, just like 1000’s of self-portraits other teenagers posted on the web today.

    The only difference is that the young man in this picture went on shortly afterward to kill or maim dozens of people by setting off a bomb in a crowded place, ending or changing many lives forever. The article seeks to explain how and why this normal looking guy would do the thing he did.

    Was it “wrong” for gay author Dave Cullen to try to explain the Columbine killers in his book “Columbine”?

    IMO, as usual this is the typical kind of follow-the-leader “outrage” the American media and people are prone to. “OMG, people are outraged so I’m outraged TOO, even though I don’t have the slightest fvcking idea WHY I’m outraged.”

    “They made him look like a celebrity!” No one looking at that photo would be inclined to buy that “rock star’s” album. He just looks like yet another anonymous teenage boy.

    He doesn’t look like a “monster”? That’s the whole fvcking POINT! If monsters LOOKED like monsters we could do something about them before they do what they do. But they don’t, so it behooves us to try to stop them before they BECOME monsters or at least know better how to spot them.

    I don’t feel any sympathy for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I was unaware there were people who are out there who did. Whatever right to understanding he might have had went away the moment he set off bombs that killed people and wounded dozens of others, shredding limbs, burning, blinding. I do however REGRET that he followed the path that he did, apparently blindly following in the path of his older brother, that his own moral compass didn’t stop him before it was too late. Not because he’s “cute” but because he should have known better, have been taught better. But he wasn’t and now all we have to deal with is the aftermath.

    But I think RS’s decision to use that photo was both provocative and smart. You think you know what evil looks like? It looks like about a million other “moody” kids.

  14. Rich says

    I don’t usually read Rolling Stone, but the controversy brought this article to my attention, and I found it helped me to understand the inexplicable.

  15. Tom says

    Rolling Stone is a rotting corpse. It will do anything to sell a few more magazines- victims be damned.

  16. says

    Facebook boycotts are stupid. Everyone has an easily lobbed internet-opinion, so nobodys counts. WE need to get a thicker skin when it comes to feedback on the internet.

  17. jamal49 says

    Explain to me again why this cover, with a photograph that was printed repeatedly in every major newspaper during the aftermath of the Boston bombings and was shown on every major media news show ad infinitum, is “controversial”?

    Maybe I missed something along the way?

  18. Nelson says

    Yes Jamal49 and others have it right. But I guess when the subject of an article makes someone feel bad, the article just shouldn’t exist. Is that the thinking? I’ll take my freedom of expression and freedom of press, thanks.

  19. ratbastard says

    @Mike Ryan and others:

    Hitler, Stalin, Charlie Manson being on covers in the past is not the same as this situation: They didn’t use a cover pic that basically sexually fetishizes [SP?] this ‘sexy’ young male terrorist. The pic they used is a ‘sexy’ pic, everybody knows it. Dzhokhar made it himself and intended it for that purpose.

    And I just realized RS publisher Wenner is gay. Not good.

    This was of course deliberate on their [RS] part, but their ploy may be badly backfiring.

  20. ratbastard says

    @Nelson and others:

    I agree, no censorship; and in this case people aren’t complaining about the article [which probably is good], they’re upset with Dzhokhar’s ‘sexy’ pic, which seems like an attempt to fetishize SP?] him.

    And I hope the next time there’s some contentious thread and posts on here, and people read a post they personally disagree with for political reasons, or because it makes them ‘upset’ [I’m not referring to deliberate, nasty troll posts like little kiwis], they don’t demand censorship or try and yell down and bully anyone who has a viewpoint they disagree with. Many people who describe themselves as ‘conservative’ or ‘progressive’ [the far right and far left crazies are even worse] have a nasty habit of this kind of attitude.

  21. Jerry6 says

    The cover should have been a copy of his police mugshot. NOT a glamorous society photo.

  22. db says

    Mike Ryan, I don’t know if you’re just very young or you have a bad memory but all of the things you mentioned created quite a bit of controversy. There were complaints and boycotts announced for every magazine cover you mentioned.

  23. says

    Well, this week people learned that not all heroin addicts look like “on the street wasted-away junkies” and not all terrorist murderers look like Big Scary Monster Men.

    and in this image-obsessed culture, that’s rather important.

    people base almost everything on image.
    Trayvon Martin got profiled for being black and wearing a hoodie.

    sometimes evil comes pretty enough for a picture frame. wanting the killer to “look evil” actually defeats the purpose of our society learning anything about the true nature of crime.

  24. ratbastard says

    Please Little Kiwi. Trayvon Martin’s pictures were almost all designed to make him look ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ looking, like a typical next door teenage boy. They even ran at the beginning mostly pics of him when he was years younger and much more immature and child-like looking. The real Trayvon Martin was 6 feet tall and had gold bling teeth. The real Trayvon Martin wasn’t skettles and iced tea, it was No Limit N-word and a budding stupid, violent thug/rap lifestyle.

    No one [almost no one] objects to RS using a picture of Dzhokhar; they object to that picture they used. And some people object to him getting more publicity, believing people like him do what they do partially for the publicity and attention. RS cover glorifies him, makes him look like a rock star. I understand being provocative, but it’s a fine line.

  25. says

    closetedratbastardwithnoballs, i know you were raised to hate black people because your family is trash, but don’t lump your mediocrities onto anyone else.

    i can’t imagine how sad your life must be that the only thing keeping you going is using the internet to be a wimpy anonymous bigot.

    i know this is all you have to live for, so rock on with your fake-dead-dad and your cowardice.

  26. Caliban says

    Don’t bring Trayvon Martin into this Ratbastard. I’m more than happy to engage you on that topic but it doesn’t belong here. Apples/Oranges.

    What exactly is the fear? That if a flattering photo of Tsarnaev is used that it might humanize him? Maybe we SHOULD see him as human instead of some inexplicable “other.” It’s only then that we can really start to understand what went wrong. Monsters are monsters, forces of nature we can’t foresee or control. They just are. But if we accept that at some point monsters started off just like the rest of us we at least have the possibility of stopping it before they’re created.

    The problem isn’t the photo. The problem is what the person in that photo went on to do. I’m sure there are cute toddler pictures of Ted Bundy out there somewhere but it still doesn’t excuse what he did later, just as a flattering photo of Tsarnaev doesn’t mitigate his actions. You can regret what that person went on to do, but you can’t divorce the person from their own actions.

    What seems odd to me is that people who are “outraged” over the Rolling Stone cover mostly put it in terms of some mysterious group of others who *might* look at that photo and admire him. The basic idea seems to be “Well I might know better, but there are people out there who WON’T!” Do you really think there are that many stupid people out there who might idealize this POS?

    Oh there ARE some who will, but they didn’t need a photo on the cover of a magazine to be mislead.

    It reminds me of an old Kids In The Hall skit, “Who’s The Cutest Boy On Death Row?”, teenage girls debating which killer is hottest, like they’re discussing a Tiger Beat magazine cover. Make no mistake, some delusional tw@t probably WILL marry him at some point, but the average person is quite capable of separating a flattering photo from the acts that person committed.

  27. ratbastard says

    @Little Kiwi,

    1) I had a real father
    2) He is dead
    3) He was he victim of a very violent, racially motivated crime
    4) I was not raised to hate black people or anybody else [project much?]

    5) You have very serious psychological issues. Use your ‘free’ heathcare or some of you daddy’s $ he set up in a trust fund for you to seek some professional help. Don’t blow it all on shopping and drugs.

    6) If you were in front me, not far away posting on the internet, you would never, ever say the sh*t you say to my face. You know this is true. You are note ‘brave’, you are in fact a loud mouth coward on the internet. That’s all you are. A loudmouth little guy on the internet who has led a very privileged and spoiled life.

  28. ratbastard says


    With that picture, RS is using sex, a ‘sexy’ teenage terrorist/bomber, to sell and make revenue. It’s implicit. And people claiming they don’t understand the outrage are disingenuous, or have some kind of empathy/sympathy deficit like Aspergers or possibly even psychopathy.

    I personally don’t buy this was a ‘good kid’ who just took a wrong turn. I believe he has some kind of personality disorder, as did his brother. It’s probably the result of early childhood and upbringing environment and genetics.

    And if Dzhokhar was not ‘cute’, was a fat, drooling, young man with chronic post nasal drip and bad acne, he wouldn’t be getting a fraction of the publicity he’s getting. RS certainly wouldn’t put him on their cover.

    Sex sells. ‘Pretty’ sells.

  29. Caliban says

    Ratbastard, maybe to YOU that photo is “sexy” but to me it’s just a head shot. You *might* think it’s “cute” but he isn’t showing off his 6-pac-abs, posing in underwear, or shoving his @ss in your face, at least ONE of which is usually required for it to be “sexy.”

    At best he’s cute. Not my thing, but objectively “cute.” But I’m in no danger of suddenly thinking HE is the “real” victim of the Boston Marathon bombing! People DIED! They lost their limbs!

    There may be reasons why he did what did but there ARE no excuses for it!

    OK, fine. “Sex sells.” “Pretty sells” And that may have been part of the reason why Rolling Stone chose that particular picture, but do you REALLY think it was intended to make him more sympathetic? I don’t.

    And don’t EVEN start throwing around terms like “psychopathology” because I don’t think you’ll like where that discussion ends up.