On Cuomo Prime Time Wednesday, Chris Cuomo sparred with Maggie Mabie, a lawyer representing Spencer Elden, who appeared naked as a baby on the cover of Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind. Elden is now suing the two surviving members of the band, Dave Grohl and Krist Novocelic, along with many others, alleging child pornography.
Cuomo’s thoughts on the lawsuit were evident from the very beginning of the interview. After playing a short clip of the video for the first single off the album, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Cuomo said, “Part of the lyrics of that song is, ‘I found it hard, it’s hard to find. Oh well, whatever, never mind.’ I’m a little like that with your complaint, that’s why I want to talk to you about it.”
Elden’s lawyers have made wild claims about the album cover, saying it made him look like a sex worker, and that he was used as an essential element of a record promotion scheme. Thirty years later, Mabie says there’s no doubt the image constitutes child pornography and was sexual in nature.
“The focal point of the image is the minor's genitalia. And here in that image along with all of the other dose factors as we pled in our complaint, it is a very over-sexualized image, and does constitute child pornography,” Mabie said. “More importantly, it was child exploitation in the way that they created it, and the way that they continue to distribute the image today.”
The image in question shows Elden as an infant, naked in a swimming pool appearing to be trying to get to a digital imposition of a dollar bill on a fish hook. The cover has generally been understood to be a statement on capitalism, which was Cuomo’s take.
“I don’t ever remember anybody ever writing or anything being out there in society about this image as a sexualized or pornographic image,” Cuomo said. “I always thought that it was a suggestion of how right out of the womb, people are just grabbing for money and doing anything they can. I thought it was more about capitalism than it was sexuality.”
Non-sexualized photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under law, yet Mabie went so far as to compare Elden to actual victims of child pornography.
“Spencer wants this image redacted,” Mabie said. “He is saying that he doesn’t want his genitalia out there for the world to consume any longer, and if we have this image redacted, that will be a monumental signal for all victims of child pornography that their voices are being heard and their privacy is being respected.”
But given the fact that Elden has repeatedly recreated the album cover, even as recently as five years ago, and he has “Nevermind” tattooed across his chest, Cuomo isn’t buying that argument.
“You think that this man is really a good face for the pain of child pornography?” Cuomo asked. “Somebody who’s made money out of it. Has a tattoo on his chest about it. Has celebrated it at different times in his life and had all this time to reach out about it in the context that you're offering now, and never did? You really think that this is something that would be comforting to real victims?”
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