Rolling Stone may want to think twice before it attempts to generate sales by giving alleged terrorists the Jim Morrison treatment.
The music magazine unveiled the cover of its August issue featuring Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and while it has generated plenty of controversy, the PR may not exactly be the best thing for the magazine – which has endured sales declines in recent years – as many retailers vow not to sell the Tsarnaev-starring issue, which hits stands Friday.
CVS was the first to announce it would not be selling the controversial August issue, followed by New England-based grocery store chain Tedeschi Foods, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and Kmart. 7-11 also said its company-owned stores will not carry the magazine.
A slew of famous faces were also very vocal about their distaste for its cover selection.
“You always think as an artist ‘If I ever get on the Rolling Stone I'll know I've made it!’ That was until they started promoting terrorists,” tweeted country star John Rich. Jack Osbourne called the decision “disgusting” adding, “this is exactly why these f**k heads commit terrorism so they can get the recognition they so desire” and urging for a boycott of the mag. His sister Kelly slammed Rolling Stone for “glorifying a monster.” Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee gave it a simple “WTF?”, country crooner Brad Paisley called it “poor taste,” and "Karate Kid" star Ralph Macchio retweeted: “Making a great album isn't enough to get you on the cover of rolling stone anymore. Blowing up kids is.”
“This magazine has done some outlandish things over the years but this one is way over the top and could cost them readership and subscribers,” Hollywood publicist Roger Neal told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I don’t think they expected this huge outcry. Somebody screwed up here plain and simple.”
Some experts are anticipating that the negative fallout will actually continue come Friday when the issue is released, with advertisers displeased their brands have not been connected to the suggested glorification of a terrorist.
“Advertisers should be concerned, this is about as un-American as you can get,” Neal said, while crisis communications guru Glenn Selig noted the publication is playing with people’s emotions on a subject that is deadly serious, for the sole purpose of selling a magazine.
"As we saw with Paula Deen, advertisers tend to run at the first sign of trouble which may prove to be problematic for Rolling Stone and perhaps did not play heavy enough in their initial calculus," Selig said. "Advertisers trust that a magazine like Rolling Stone won’t put them in such an awful position. Some advertisers will likely feel let down having got sucked into this ugly and uncomfortable situation.”
Editors at the magazine have defended their decision.
“I guess we should have drawn a d**k on Dzhokhar's face or something?” tweeted senior editor Christian Hoard on Wednesday, before abruptly deleting it.
Rolling Stone’s managing editor Will Dana addressed the issue with NPR host Melissa Block.
“I am completely comfortable about the decision that we made,” he said.
Rolling Stone also released an official statement, claiming that their hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and that their thoughts are 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,” continued the statement. “The fact that 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.”
Some also argue that Rolling Stone backlash likely won’t be hurt it in the long term.
“It won’t have a long-term reputational effect because they will have a new cover with someone people love next month and the public that actually buys the magazine will not remember,” said Ronn Torossian CEO of 5WPR. “They may take a beating for a few weeks, but no one chooses a cover like this and doesn’t expect backlash. They took a gamble on a marketing concept. As much as it is a detestable ode to an alleged killer, it will not seriously damage them in the long run.”
And according to image consultant Tamara Jacobs, it could even attract (or re-attract) new eyeballs.
“Folks like me, who haven’t looked at Rolling Stone in a long time, are reading the issue and once re-acquainted, will probably buy the next one,” she added.