The National Enquirer published a cover photo reportedly of Whitney Houston lying in her open casket under the headline Whitney: The Last Photo!  The cover photo depicts a deceased Houston wearing what the tabloid claims was her favorite purple dress and $500,000 worth of jewelry.

Although it has not yet been verified, the Whitney Houston open casket photo has sparked outrage not only from fans, but also in the media.

We're not the biggest fans of this kind of exploitation. In fact, we find it rather tasteless and crude. But, we're also not foolish enough to think that there aren't those of you out there who are morbidly curious. If that is the case, then we invite you to pick up the new issue of National Enquirer. We warn you though--it's really unsettling and not for the faint of heart, wrote celebrity blogger Perez Hilton.

In a classy move certain to enrage fans while boosting sales, the National Enquirer has published a photo of Whitney Houston's open casket this week, wrote TheWrap. The exercise in sensationalism is on par with the photos of Houston's last meal and the bathtub she died in that TMZ ran in the days immediately after her Feb. 11 death at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

It's not appropriate. Actually, it's astoundingly poor taste and low stooping, even by the Enquirer's standards. And it represents the very worst of predatory paparazzi culture. There's no reason why the public at large needs to see Houston's lifeless body, wrote The Gossip Cop. 

The photo has caused a maelstrom of fiery criticism and many are calling for a boycott of the National Enquirer. However, one troubling question remains--who took the Whitney Houston open casket photo?

The photograph was reportedly taken during a private viewing ceremony that took place on the Friday before Houston's funeral in Newark, N.J.

Don't hate the National Enquirer for publishing Whitney Houston casket photo, hate on the family member/friend who sold it, tweeted PhillyGossip.

Was the photo authorized by someone in the Houston family? The L.A. Times said that this seems doubtful since the family purposefully planned a private ceremony on Friday at Whigham Funeral Home to keep out the prying eyes of the media.

According to the newspaper, the media is dubbing the photos unverified. The photo has not been certified as legitimate and many continue to note that it does not carry the name of any one photographer.

However, The L.A. Times stated that the Houston family has not yet come out to say that the photo is phony. Therefore, until that happens, the photo will be accepted as authentic. 

If the photo was not authorized, then someone exploited the Houston family for a shot at some cash. Magazine photo editors who spoke to FOX News stated that the casket photo could have been purchased for a six-figure price.

Some pointed fingers at Houston's ex-husband Bobby Brown's sister, Tina Brown, shot the photo. The tabloid will likely never disclose its source, the Web site The Improper wrote, but it probably paid a pretty penny for the photo. Since it also has a two part interview with Bobby Brown's sister Tina in the paper as well, she is the prime suspect.

Regardless of whether or not the open casket photo of Whitney Houston is legitimate or not, many are deeply disturbed by it. Outraged fans and media outlets alike questioned if the tabloid has finally gone too far.

This is not the first time the National Enquirer has crossed the line. Shortly after Houston died, the National Enquirer hired an actress to reenact the 48-year-olds tragic death in the bathtub of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The actress was photographed lying face-down on a bathroom floor and in a bathtub.