RTDNA: Walmart Pulls Threatening T-Shirt

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

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

The company was quick to respond to the group's concerns, RTDNA pointed out, responding only hours later and pulling it from the site.

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."

Shelley had e-mailed Walmart Wednesday (Nov. 29) asking that the shirt be removed.

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"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," RTDNA told the retailer. "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."

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 trying to take him down.

The T-shirt had been in evidence at Trump campaign rallies in 2016.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.