A shirt with the slogan "Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED." was removed from Walmart.com after a broadcast journalism group complained on Wednesday.
Shirts with the slogan (which has been around for years) sparked controversy after a man was photographed wearing one at a Trump rally last November. The products were pulled from retailers including online marketplace Zazzle shortly after the photo went viral.
But apparently the shirt could still be bought on Walmart.com for $18.99 up until this week. The product link now leads to a page that says, "Sorry... We're having technical difficulties and are looking into the problem now."
The item was sold by Teespring, one of thousands of outside sellers listing more than 70 million items on Walmart.com. Teespring was also reportedly still selling the shirt on its own website as of Wednesday, although it's gone now.
"This item was sold by a third-party seller on our marketplace and clearly violates our policy," a Walmart spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Ad Age. "We removed it as soon as it was brought to our attention, and are conducting a thorough review of the seller's assortment."
Its removal from Walmart.com was prompted by a letter from the Radio Television Digital News Association, which promotes the preservation of free speech rights of broadcast journalists, and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force. The letter called on Walmart to stop selling the T-shirts.
"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," the letter says. "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."
"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. However, just because Walmart has the right to sell the shirts, that doesn't mean it is the right thing to do."
The Radio Television Digital News Association responded to the shirt's removal in a blog post on Thursday. "We are grateful for Walmart's swift action, but dismayed that it, and anyone else selling the shirt, would offer such an offensive and inflammatory product," the post said.