McCain: Rolling Stone's Tsarnaev cover "stupid" and "inappropriate"

In this cropped magazine cover image released by Wenner Media, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appears on the cover of the Aug. 1, 2013 issue of "Rolling Stone." ( AP Photo/Wenner Media

Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., thinks Rolling Stone's decision to put Boston bombing suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev on its cover was "stupid" and "inappropriate" - but he doesn't think the magazine should be shunned as a result.

"It's stupid," he said Sunday on CNN, when asked what he thought of the cover. "I thought it was glorifying an individual that represents a great threat to innocent lives and was responsible for the taking of innocent lives."

"But for me to tell them to pull their magazine from the book shelves, it's not up to me to do that," he added.

The cover in question featured a photo of Tsarnaev as a teenager in a t-shirt. The text beneath the headline - "How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell Into radical Islam and became a monster" - captured the thrust of the accompanying story, which explored how an individual as seemingly normal and relatable as Tsarnaev could turn to a life of murderous terrorism.

The use of the photo sparked widespread outrage and a Facebook campaign to boycott the publication. Pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens vowed not to carry the issue in their stores "out of respect for the victims of the attack and their loved ones."

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino fired off a letter to Rolling Stone's publisher calling the cover "ill-conceived, at best."

The photo "reaffirms a terrible message: that destruction gains fame for killers and their causes," he wrote.

Rolling Stone defended itself in a statement: "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 statement added.

Despite his disapproval of the image, McCain said Sunday, the magazine may well have achieved its desired aim in publishing it. ""Rolling Stone" probably got more publicity than they've had in 20 years," he said.

Dzhokhar and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev allegedly detonated two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April, killing three and injuring hundreds of others. Tamerlan was killed by police during the manhunt that followed, and Dzhokhar is currently standing trial. He has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, and could face the death penalty if prosecutors pursue it.

  • Jake Miller

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