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Wal-Mart executives deemed photographs of nine naked and aged bodies inappropriate for its shelves this week when the company decided not to offer shoppers copies of the best-selling book “America (The Book),” written by Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” writers. The retail giant, based in Bentonville, Ark., canceled its order for the books when executives got wind of a photo in the book featuring the nudes, each capped with the superimposed head of a Supreme Court justice. “We were not aware of the image that was in the book (when Wal-Mart ordered it) and we felt the majority of our customers would not be comfortable with it,” said Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokeswoman Karen Burk. “We offer what we think our customers want to buy. That just makes good business sense.” The book — a mock school textbook — parodies the American government in typical “Daily Show” fashion. The page facing the nude photos has cutouts of the justices’ robes, complete with a caption asking readers to “restore their dignity by matching each justice with his or her respective robe.” Jamie Raab, a publisher for Warner Books, which produced “America,” said the naked justice joke fits perfectly with the book’s theme. “It’s not gratuitous and it’s very much in tune with the rest of the book,” Raab said. “It’s funny, yet to the point. When you undress the Supreme Court justices, they’re just men and women and you have to judge them on who they are and what they do. It makes you look and think and laugh.” Raab said she doesn’t fault Wal-Mart for their decision, but added that she doesn’t see the point in banning something that isn’t intentionally sexually explicit. “You don’t look at that page to get your rocks off, you do it to laugh,” Raab said. “But I’m not going to judge them. They do what they do and nudity doesn’t fit with what they want to sell.” Wal-Mart has a well-known policy of refusing to carry magazines with racy covers or CDs with explicit lyrics. Burk said the company’s marketing team evaluates each product to determine whether it will appear on store shelves and uses “common sense” to navigate gray areas between what is clearly acceptable and what is clearly unacceptable. The store is offering the book on its Web site at www.walmart.com for almost half its listed price of $24.95. Burk said the store’s online customers are a “different audience” and that the company wanted to give another option to people looking to purchase the book from Wal-Mart. “We know we can’t be everything to every customer, but we try to do the best that we can,” she said. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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