A gold hearse carrying Whitney Houston's body leaves Whigham Funeral… (Peter Foley / EPA )
The National Enquirer's photo of the late Whitney Houston in her casket was unauthorized and had nothing to do with the funeral home where the singer's body was prepared, the funeral home's owner told The Times on Thursday.
Outrage has followed the publication of the photo in the latest issue of the Enquirer, as have questions about how it was obtained. That has cast suspicion on Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, N.J., but owner Carolyn Whigham insisted that the funeral home did not play a role.
"I'm going to answer you as the publicist told me to answer you: We have no comment. But it was not the funeral home," Whigham said. She then expressed irritation with the media. "You guys are getting me in the middle," she said, adding that the publicity is making her business look bad.
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Asked to elaborate, she said: "I am very angry, very upset, just like the family, just like the fans," referring to the publication of the photo. "We don't like it because it implicates us. Whitney was a personal friend to me and my family. We would not do that."
She said a publicist for Houston's relatives would release a statement to the media shortly.
That statement could help clarify the circumstances surrounding the image, and how it was obtained. Among the questions: Was it authorized by anyone related to Houston? Or was it possibly a clandestine image sold to the tabloid?
Houston, 48, died in a Beverly Hills hotel room earlier this month. Officials said she was found submerged in a bathtub just hours before she was scheduled to attend a pre-Grammys soiree hosted by her longtime mentor, Clive Davis.
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