Walmart on Thursday removed a controversial T-shirt from its website that called for violence against journalists.
“Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED,” the back of the shirt available on their website read, a reference to lynching journalists.
The shirt was only removed from Walmart’s website after the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) sent the largest retailer in the U.S. a letter flagging the shirt’s message.
RTDNA noted that the shirt was being sold by Walmart with a company called Teespring acting as a third-party seller.
“As a fierce proponent of the First Amendment that is politically nonpartisan, we recognize Walmart’s right to sell the T-Shirts, and the right of consumers to purchase and wear them,” RTDNA executive director Dan Shelley wrote in his letter to the retailer. “However, just because Walmart has the right to sell the shirts, that doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.”
“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,” he added.
“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 Walmart spokesperson says the shirt “clearly violates our policy,” adding that the company is now reviewing all of the products it sells from Teespring.
Within five hours of Shelley sending his letter to Walmart, the company removed the shirt from its site.
As noted by NPR, the shirt first rose to prominence a year ago, when a Reuters photographer snapped an image of a man wearing it at a gathering of Trump supporters two days before the November election.
Again, our photographer took this in Minnesota. I had the location wrong the first time. Apologies. pic.twitter.com/OwuCt7WAUr
— Patricia Zengerle (@ReutersZengerle) November 6, 2016