Wal-Mart canceled an order for a best-selling book by Jon Stewart and the writers of "The Daily Show" after executives learned that it contained a photo of nine naked, aged bodies, each with the superimposed head of a Supreme Court justice.
"America (The Book)," a mock school text that lampoons the American government in much the same way the Comedy Central show spoofs the news, includes cutouts of the justices' robes and a caption asking readers to "restore their dignity by matching each justice with his or her respective robe."
Executives for the Bentonville-based retail giant deemed the book inappropriate for its shelves this week.
"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."
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 its decision, but added that she didn't see the point in banning something that isn't intentionally sexually explicit.
Wal-Mart has a well-known policy of refusing to carry magazines with racy covers or CDs with explicit lyrics.
The chain is offering the book on its Web site. Burk said the store's online customers are a "different audience" and that the company wanted to give an option to people looking to buy the book from Wal-Mart.