Whitney Houston in 1999.
The owner of the funeral home that handled Whitney Houston's funeral is vehemently denying that her staff was responsible for the National Enquirer's photograph of the singer in her casket.
"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," Carolyn Whigham told the Los Angeles Times. "Whitney was a personal friend to me and my family. We would not do that."
She also told the newspaper, "I am very angry, very upset, just like the family, just like the fans."
She also said that Houston's family would release a statement to the media shortly.
Whigham owns the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, N.J., where Houston's private funeral service was held Feb. 18. Earlier, she had told the U.K.'s Daily Mail that the Houston family had asked her not to comment.
The Enquirer's photo, showing a woman who appears to be Houston lying in a casket with her nickname, "Nippy," written on its silk lining, provoked widespread outrage. It appears to have been taken in a viewing room prepared to receive guests for Houston's service. While the photo has not been officially confirmed to be Houston, neither Whigham nor anyone from the Houston family has said that it was fraudulent.
It "seems doubtful" the photo was leaked by a family member, the Times reports, citing the Houston family's attempts to keep the media away from the service. Houston's funeral was invitation-only to preserve privacy, although an Associated Press camera was allowed to film the service, which was streamed live online.
Focus does seem to be shifting from Houston's death to the press coverage of her death, especially as it relates to how information is leaking out. Radar Online is reporting that hotel staffers at the Beverly Hills Hilton, where Houston died on Feb. 11, have been fired for speaking to the media about the death.
“Hotel employees that talked to the media were fired because they violated hotel policy," Radar Online's anonymous source says. "They weren’t high level employees, but the hotel didn’t want anyone to talk about Whitney’s tragic death.”
There is still no official cause of death given for the late singer. Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter says an autopsy was performed, but that results are being held until toxicology tests have been performed.
While the Beverly Hills police department has said the death is not a criminal case and they are not conducting a homicide investigation, Nancy Grace of HLN has brought up that angle, saying "I'd like to know who was around her...and who let her slip, or pushed her, underneath that water."
Comedian Lewis Black criticized Grace's speculation, saying "she manages to turn the tragic accident into murder mystery dinner theater."
No less than legendary singer Aretha Franklin, Houston's godmother and a 50-year friend of Houston's mother Cissy, has pleaded for media sanity, issuing a statement Wednesday saying, "Cissy does not need ridiculous speculation and neither do I.”
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