Model Esther Baxter gave Bossip an exclusive interview to discuss how, she says, rapper Joe Budden, her ex-boyfriend, beat her and caused her to miscarry their child. Bossip published the video of the interview Monday, along with copies of a police report, photographs of Baxter’s physical injuries—and three gruesome photographs of the fetus.
Bossip eventually took down the miscarriage photos, but not before Baxter ranted on Twitter about the invasion of privacy, and many of the site’s readers left comments calling Bossip’s editorial decision “revolting” and “unnecessary.”
The controversy erupted just days after U.S. officials debated distributing the Osama bin Laden death photos. And a documentary, Unlawful Killing, being released at Cannes this week will—for the first time—show footage of Princess Diana as she was dying. Which raises the question: Have taste and restraint gone the way of the dinosaurs?
On Bossip, which garners 1.4 million unique visitors a month and boasts the tagline “Gossip for the Hardcore,” the answer is yes, says Chief Executive Marve Frazier.
“It was what it was. If the images are graphic, the images are graphic.”
“We weren’t thinking editorially or had any intention behind it,” Frazier said. “We just decided to put everything up that was sent to us—that we had obtained for the particulars of the story. It wasn’t like we were asking for pictures of the fetus. There were only three on the site. We received quite a few and they were pretty disgusting. The ones you saw weren’t even the half of it, honestly.”
Although Baxter dropped all charges against Budden, the two fought on Twitter this month when the underground hip-hop artist released “No Ordinary Love Sh** Pt. 3,” in which he describes his turbulent relationship with Baxter and mentions a February night in which they got into a physical altercation that claimed the life of their unborn baby.
Baxter turned to Bossip to tell her side of the story, but Frazier won’t reveal how the site actually obtained the photographs. Attempts to reach Baxter were unsuccessful Tuesday. During a radio interview Tuesday, Budden said Baxter had texted him the same pictures.
“They weren’t from her directly,” Frazier said. “I can’t say who exactly the source was, but at the end of the day, we were told that it was important that those pictures be put out. That’s why the decision was made to put them out. We weren’t doing it out of malicious intent at all. It was proof of whatever she was saying—the whole package of what went up with their situation.”
In the end, Frazier took down the photographs out of concern that there would be an advertiser backlash—not because she regretted her initial decision.
“I made the decision to take it down because I didn’t want any issues with dead fetuses being on the site,” Frazier said. “It wasn’t like we had a beef with Esther or anything like that. It was what it was. If the images are graphic, the images are graphic. Last week, there were images of dead people inside Osama bin Laden’s lair. You don’t have to click on it if you can’t stomach it.”
President Obama begs to differ.
Maria Elena Fernandez is a senior entertainment reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast. She previously covered television and nightlife for The Los Angeles Times and spent many years on the crime beat, writing for The Washington Post and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She also worked at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, where she covered the AIDS epidemic. Her children's book, The Secret of Fern Island, was published in 1996 under a pseudonym so that she wouldn't be stalked by screaming children.