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July 17th, 2013
05:58 PM ET

Ex-Obama aide: 'Ill-conceived' Rolling Stone cover gives Tsarnaev rock star status

Rock band Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show once belted out the lyrics, "It's the thrill that'll getcha/When you get your picture/On the cover of the Rollin' Stone."

But the moment the magazine's new cover started circulating Tuesday, outrage exploded online.

The latest issue of Rolling Stone is being accused of looking like Tiger Beat for terror suspects, featuring Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect in a soft-touched glamour shot that's more reminiscent of Jim Morrison than the man accused of the horrific bombing that killed and maimed so many on Boylston Street.

Pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens, and the New England grocery chain Tedeschi Food Shops are now boycotting the magazine in their stores. The grocer said on Facebook, "music and terror don't mix."

"When you look at the cover, this is a kid who looks like John Lennon without the glasses or Jim Morrison," former National Security spokesman for President Barack Obama Tommy Vietor told CNN. Vietor criticized the cover on Twitter earlier. "He looks cool. This is something you might aspire to."

"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," Rolling Stone editors said in a statement.

Vietor said the magazine deserves credit for the article, which questions how a normal kid does something evil. But the cover, he said, is "ill-conceived."

"A lot of what you do to prevent people from getting self-radicalized here in the U.S. is undercut the al Qaeda narrative, the extremist narrative that there is something noble behind these sort of actions," said Vietor.

"We all know, as reasonable people that these are nihilistic, self-destructive, murderous actions that will lead to nothing good for your life, but when you see something like this immortalized, for lack of a better word, on the cover of a magazine, I think that's appealing to young people that are depressed or disaffected, or looking for some meaning," said Vietor.

The magazine defended its work, saying 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."

Vietor said he read the article and called it a great piece of journalism.

But "this magazine cover says, you know, terrorism can get you rock star treatment or status, and I think that's a bad message," said Vietor.

Vietor is a native Bostonian, and said the town will move on from the backlash over the Rolling Stones cover.

"I think most Bostonians will do what I'll do tomorrow, which is, like, drink some Dunkin' Donuts coffee, brag about the Red Sox, and go on with my life. And not think about these two punk kids another minute," said Vietor.

This is not the first time the magazine has put someone accused of horrific crimes on its cover. A 1970 issue had Charles Manson on the cover. The article won a National Magazine Award.

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