February 24, 2012
National Enquirer

National Enquirer

Nothing New in Enquirer's Death Photo of Whitney Houston

When the National Enquirer published on its cover the purported "last photo" of singing superstar Whitney Houston lying in an open casket, fans and many news organizations expressed outraged.

"A line has been crossed," declared Sarah Anne Hughes, a pop culture blogger at The Washington Post.

"It represents the very worst of predatory paparazzi culture," said GossipCop.com, a watchdog on the gossip industry.

By publishing the "world exclusive" photograph of Houston at a Newark, N.J., funeral home, the Enquirer was living up to its longstanding reputation for sensationalism.

In 1964, the supermarket tabloid printed the morgue photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy. The double-truck image of Oswald appeared inside, not on Page One, but its impact was just as controversial. A copy of that newspaper is currently displayed in the Newseum's News Corporation News History Gallery.

In its Sept. 6, 1977, edition, the Enquirer featured a closely cropped, black-and-white photo of Elvis Presley lying in his open casket. In 1980, it featured former Beatle John Lennon in a color "last picture" on the cover.

Enquirer publisher Mary Beth Wright defended the Houston cover, telling FoxNews.com she thought the photograph was "beautiful."

As with the Oswald, Presley and Lennon images, people are wondering how the Enquirer was able to get the photo of Houston at the private family viewing. That question has left one news organization less critical of the Enquirer.

"Don't hate the National Enquirer for publishing the Whitney Houston casket photo," tweeted the Philadelphia Daily News's PhillyGossip. "Hate on the family member/friend who sold it."

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