In the face of criticism over what some have described as a “shameful” decision to put Whitney Houston’s corpse on the cover of their magazine this week, the publisher of the National Enquirer told FoxNews.com that she thought the cover was a work of art.
“I thought it was beautiful,” publisher Mary Beth Wright told FoxNews.com.
Fellow members of the media attacked the publication's decision as tasteless and morbid.
The Washington Post declared that “a line had been crossed.” The website Jezebel called it morbid and the site The Daily Caller added: "Running an image of Whitney Houston’s lifeless body on the cover is pretty par for the course for The National Enquirer, but it’s still a bit much."
The photo shows the late singer dead in a gold casket with the headline, “Whitney: The Last Photo!” The image is believed to have been taken inside the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey. Accompanying headlines lure readers in with the promise to bring them inside Whitney’s private funeral, offering details that she was buried in $500,000 of jewelry with gold slippers on her feet.
A day after the National Enquirer's purported photograph of singer Whitney Houston in her casket made the rounds of the Internet, no one has revealed who took the photo and provided it to the tabloid.
The Enquirer's photo, showing a woman who appears to be Houston lying in a casket with her nickname, "Nippy," written on its silk lining, provoked widespread outrage. It appears to have been taken in a viewing room prepared to receive guests for Houston's service. That service was held at the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, N.J. on Feb. 18.
"I have spoken with the family about this and they have asked me not to comment on the matter," Carolyn Whigham, the funeral-home owner, told the UK's Daily Mail.
It "seems doubtful" the photo was leaked by a family member, the L.A. Times reports, citing the Houston family's attempts to keep the media away from the service. Houston's funeral was invitation-only to preserve privacy, although an Associated Press camera was allowed to film the service, which was streamed live online.
The paper also notes that the picture is probably authentic, writing that "no one from Houston's family has come forward so far to say the photo is fraudulent."
Focus does seem to be shifting from Houston's death to the press coverage of her death, especially as it relates to how information is leaking out. Radar Online is reporting that hotel staffers at the Beverly Hills Hilton, where Houston died on Feb. 11, have been fired for speaking to the media about the death.
“Hotel employees that talked to the media were fired because they violated hotel policy," Radar Online's anonymous source says. "They weren’t high level employees, but the hotel didn’t want anyone to talk about Whitney’s tragic death.”
There is still no official cause of death given for the late singer. Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter says an autopsy was performed, but that results are being held until toxicology tests have been performed.
While the Beverly Hills police department has said the death is not a criminal case and they are not conducting a homicide investigation, Nancy Grace of HLN has brought up that angle, saying "I'd like to know who was around her...and who let her slip, or pushed her, underneath that water."
Comedian Lewis Black criticized Grace's speculation, saying "she manages to turn the tragic accident into murder mystery dinner theater."
No less than legendary singer Aretha Franklin, Houston's godmother and a 50-year friend of Houston's mother Cissy, has pleaded for media sanity, issuing a statement Wednesday saying, "Cissy does not need ridiculous speculation and neither do I.”
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