Following a complaint by a journalism advocacy organization, retail giant Walmart has pulled from its website a T-shirt that appears to encourage lynching journalists. The shirts read: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”
Walmart yanked the shirt within a day of receiving a complaint Wednesday from the Radio Television Digital News Association. The clothing was offered for sale by third-party vendor Teespring on the Walmart site.
The product “clearly violates our policy,” said a Walmart statement to CBS News. The company is now reviewing all products for sale on its site from Teespring. The shirts have also vanished from the Teespring site.
RTDNA noted in its emailed complaint that nearly three dozen journalists have been assaulted in the U.S. this year “merely for performing their Constitutionally-guaranteed duty to seek and report the truth.” Such messages “inflame the passions” of those who don’t like the media and, at worst, “openly encourage violence targeting journalists,” added the email, written by RTDNA’s executive director, Dan Shelley.
According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which RTDNA is a founding partner, nearly three dozen journalists have been physically assaulted so far this year across the country merely for performing their Constitutionally-guaranteed duty to seek and report the truth. According to our fellow press freedom advocacy group Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 48 journalists have been killed in other countries around the world thus far in 2017.
It is our belief that at the least, T-Shirts or any other items bearing such words simply inflame the passions of those who either don’t like, or don’t understand, the news media. At worst, they openly encourage violence targeting journalists. We believe they are particularly inflammatory within the context of today’s vitriolic political and ideological environment.
A photo of the T-shirt on a Donald Trump supporter was tweeted by a Reuters reporter during the presidential campaign. Trump often angrily railed against the media during his campaign and has lashed out at several media outlets as the “enemy of the American people.”
Teespring is a sales platform for T-shirt designers. Its terms of service don’t allow “hate speech.” But the San Francisco-based company has been in trouble for a number of controversial messages on shirts. In May it was blasted for peddling T-shirts denigrating black women. The shirt was removed. In August it removed a rainbow swastika T-shirt.
Walmart was last in the news for controversial sales over T-shirts reading: “Bulletproof. Black Lives Matter.” Walmart pulled the shirts — and sweatshirts — after receiving a complaint from the Fraternal Order of Police, saying they were “offensive” and served to inflame tensions. Those shirts were also sold by a third-party vendor, Old Glory Merchandise, which no longer exists on its old website. The shirts are now available on Teespring’s site.