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RTDNA: Walmart Pulls Threatening T-Shirt

Group says move was swift, but shirt targeting journalists should never have been offered 11/30/2017 9:51 AM Eastern
Walmart has pulled a menacing T-shirt (bottom) from its website but the listing still came up as a sponsored ad in Google search (top). The link leads to a "technical difficulties" message on Walmart.com.

Walmart, the country's biggest retailer, has removed a controversial T-shirt threatening journalists from its website, the Radio-Television Digital News Association said.

The shirt bore the message: "Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED."

Walmart was quick to respond to the group's concerns, RTDNA pointed out, pulling the shirt from its website Wednesday (Nov. 29) only hours after Shelley had e-mailed the company requesting that it be removed.

"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," the group said in the letter. "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."

Related: RTDNA Concerned About Reporters' Safety After Gianforte's Light Sentence for Assault

Teespring.com, a third-party vendor, had been selling the shirt on the Walmart website. (Teespring also appears to have removed the shirt and other merchandise featuring the slogan from its own website.)

“We are grateful for Walmart's swift action," said RTDNA executive director Dan Shelley, "but dismayed that it, and anyone else selling the shirt, would offer such an offensive and inflammatory product.

RTDNA, a big First Amendment fan, said it recognized the right of the company to sell the shirt, and of consumers to buy it, but said: "It is our belief that at the least, T-Shirts or any other items bearing such words [a coffee mug is also available] 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."

President Donald Trump has been fueling anger at, and distrust of, the news media through his drumbeat of tweets disparaging news outlets whose stories he dislikes and e-mailing supporters that journalists are in league with his political enemies to try taking him down.

Related: Trump Uses Lauer Exit to Target Comcast-NBCU Execs

The T-shirt was first reported in 2016 when Reuters tweeted a photo of a man wearing it at a 2016 Trump campaign rally in Minnesota. Website The Daily Beast then tracked down the t-shirt's listed creator; read that profile here.

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