Breaking! Congress To Walmart: Stop Selling Nazi T-shirts

Members of Congress started a letter writing campaign today, urging Walmart to stop selling t-shirts bearing Nazi iconography.

    “SCHAKOWSKY LETTER TO WAL-MART CEO: REMOVE SHIRTS WITH NAZI INSIGNIA FROM YOUR SHELVES

    WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky was today joined by a bi-partisan group of Members of Congress in sending a letter to Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott expressing concern over reports that t-shirts bearing Nazi insignia remain on the shelves of some of its retail outlet locations. In November, Wal-Mart committed to removing the product from its shelves, but reports this week suggested that the retailer had yet to meet that commitment.”

Inside, the letter Rep. Schakowsky circulated to other members of the House and the letter to Walmart CEO Lee Scott…


The following members of Congress signed the letter: Corrine Brown (D-FL), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Diane Watson (D-CA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Charles A. Wilson, Jr. (D-OH), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Steve Israel (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-MA), Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL).

Urge Wal-Mart to Remove Nazi Insignias from its Shelves

T-Shirts on a Wal-Mart Shelf Nazi SS 3rd Division Totenkopf Symbol

Dear Colleague:

Please join me in sending the attached letter to Wal-Mart President and CEO, H. Lee Scott, Jr., urging him to inform Congress about what steps he is currently taking and will take to ensure that T-shirts with this Nazi insignia are not sold in his stores.

An Associated Press report on November 13, 2006, indicated that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. had agreed to immediately remove T-shirts that display the insignia of Nazi Germany’s 3rd SS Division Totenkopf from its shelves. A Wal-Mart spokesman acknowledged last year, “We would never have placed this T-shirt on our shelves had we known the origin and significance of this emblem.” Unfortunately, reports suggest that the product remains on Wal-Mart shelves.

To add your name to this letter please contact [redacted]@mail.house.gov in my office.

Sincerely,

Jan Schakowsky
February 08, 2007


Mr. H. Lee Scott, Jr.

President and Chief Executive Officer

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

702 S.W. 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716

Dear Mr. Scott:

We were pleased to learn from an Associated Press report on November 13, 2006, that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. had agreed to immediately remove T-shirts from its shelves that display the insignia of Nazi Germany’s 3rd SS Division Totenkopf. As your spokesman David Tovar acknowledged last year, “We would never have placed this T-shirt on our shelves had we known the origin and significance of this emblem.”

Unfortunately, reports this week suggest that the product remains on your retailer’s shelves. We are gravely dismayed about Wal-Mart’s inaction on its pledge to remove this product from its stores, and we ask that you take immediate steps to comply with last November’s commitment to remove this offensive merchandise from your shelves.

The Holocaust was the most horrific human atrocity the world saw during the last century and perhaps in the history of the planet. However, genocide and hate remain amongst us today. It is critical that we remember the Nazis’ crimes and take action to prevent future atrocities.

Therefore, we respectfully request that you inform us about the actions you are taking and will take to ensure that this type of product is not sold in your stores. Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing from you within the next 30 days.

Sincerely,

###

— BEN POPKEN

Recent updates to this story.
Backstory.

Comments

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  1. thatabbygirl says:

    Wow – I’m not sure if I’m more amazed at the seeming power of the Consumerist, or at the willingness of Congress to involve itself in issues with media splash but little impact on people’s lives. In either case, it does seem like a waste of influence and time to raise this issue to a congressional level.

    Funny, though.

  2. TJF says:

    Looks like someone in congress actively reads consumerist…

  3. schvitzatura says:

    Has to be an aide in Schakowsky’s office. This thing is going to blow wide open now and potential Wal-Mart boycotting in Florida, New York, and California will be the order of the day, for their less-than-benign “neglect” of the matter.

    Maybe Ben will get called to testify at a Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials for the House Energy and Commerce Committee session, as a witness!

    Ben is now at Ralph Nader-level recognition!

  4. kcskater says:

    Ben for President!

  5. rachmanut says:

    I’m hoping this will open the door for Congress to tell cell phone companies that a 50% increase in text messaging counts as materially adverse. Consumerist Power!

  6. CommanderZero says:

    Nazism and genocide suck, but haven’t these Congressmen heard of the First Amendment?

  7. Mike_ says:

    Stay out of it, Congress. This matter is between Wal-Mart, the Media and the People. We don’t want our government regulating speech. But thanks anyway.

  8. royal72 says:

    glad our congress has so much time on their hands for really important things like a fucking stupid t-shirt. how about you get off your ass, turn off oprah, and take a moment to make this country a democracy again.

  9. BMR says:

    but how does congress feel about “Thrifty Mommy’s 50 Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store”? Do they think dented cans are a good deal?

    what a joke. too bad we are paying for that joke.

  10. Chris says:

    Pandering. Pathetic.

  11. Btwbfdimho says:

    And look who is lobbying for Wal-Mart:
    The American Enterprise Institute, the same “thinktank” that offered $10K for writing against Global Warming awareness and provides talking-heads for the Dick&Bush Administration:

    http://www.aei.org/books/filter.all,bookID.867/book_detail

  12. dohtem says:

    This is a testament to the influence this little website has. Ben Popken and company, I commend you.


    WOW!

  13. morydd says:

    While the shirts are a glaring example of a company behaving poorly, I have agree that congress should stay the hell out of it.

    If you customers tell you to stop doing something, than it is good business practice to listen to your customers (that’s how the free market works).

    If congress tells you to stop doing the same thing, it’s a violation of the first amendment.

  14. schvitzatura says:

    The Wal-Mart totenshirt thing was their version of a non-binding resolution…their highly-evolved JIT systems and crack management can’t even get their heads straight on a commitment.

    So this falls under Schakowsky’s purview. Let her talk to it, if she wants.

  15. ValkRaider says:

    This is a terrible thing.

    This decision is between WAL-MART (blech) and their customers. Congress has no place being involved.

    This is a bad bad slippery slope people. Unpopular views are supposed to be protected by our Constitution.

    That means ALL unpopular views.

  16. joseppi7 says:

    Isn’t the cartoon charactor putting the swastika in a garbage can?

  17. ValkRaider says:

    Why did you hide the email address of Representative Schakowsky?

    That is public information.

    It is all over the web, including on her own site. For example:
    “Contact my Chicago office at 5533 N. Broadway, 773/506-7100 or email me at jan.schakowsky@mail.house.gov

    And the Democratic Party of Illinois.

    There are hundreds of congressional directories and documents in PDF form listing the email as well.

    Our representatives contact information is not confidential.

  18. Darren W. says:

    Just like the Trans-Fats bans, this is no place for government action. ( shameless plug for http://www.lp.org ) But seriously, kudos to The Consumerist, and all of the contributors who have allowed it to have such a decisive impact on the lives of its readers!

  19. ValkRaider says:

    Darren:

    Actually this is a bit different than trans-fat bans. T-Shirts don’t kill you or cause millions of dollars in health related costs annually.

    Additionally, it is pretty easy to get a T-Shirt without a Nazi emblem. But it is relatively hard to get food without trans-fats.

    Plus, you have to eat to live. You don’t have to wear a t-shirt to live.

    And of course our rights to eat trans-fats are not defended by the constitution.

    So there are some big differences there.

  20. MattyMatt says:

    Wow, signed by tons of Democrats but only one Republican? WTF? I wonder if Republicans were like “I have better stuff to do” or if they just weren’t invited to sign it.

    Or maybe Republicans heart Nazis.

  21. AcilletaM says:

    It shouldn’t take any kind of act of Congress for Wal-Mart to act.

    That said, a letter from some Congressmen doesn’t mean a hill of beans so those ‘threatening the first amendment’ people can unclench for a second and realize this. They can write a letter if they want to, it’s protected too.

    Frankly I think Congress should have better things to do than this. Hopefully not making us a Democracy because we’re a Republic and I voted for someone to represent me because I don’t want to vote on every damn thing the government does.

  22. 102415 says:

    Free speech goes two ways. Congress people can write all they want. This is not the first time there has been trouble with T-shirts at Wal mart. I’m still mad about the ones they wouldn’t sell back in the nineties. Meaning “Someday a Woman Will Be President” which was removed by Ditto Head clamor.
    If Weiner or Maloney didn’t sign that letter they would be toast in their districts.
    Wal-mart sucks.

  23. ValkRaider says:

    Yes, Congress is free to write letters all they want – as long as they do it as a citizen with personal email accounts or phone numbers on their own time, not a Congressperson on government time with official resources.

    When you use your official email account to organize and send out the letter, and you sign with official titles then you are performing the function as a REPRESENTATIVE of the people.

    Since we do not have the actual letter, only the text that Consumerist has posted, we cannot know for sure what it looked like.

    But no one is suggesting that congresspeople cannot have opinions and such – but just that they should not do it with their official position as “weight”.

    There is a big difference between “Jan Schakowsky” and “Representative Jan Schakowsky, (D) Illinois”.

  24. Ben Popken says:

    Valk, that wasn’t Jan’s email address we removed, it was for someone in her office.

  25. Parttimesaint says:

    “Or maybe Republicans heart Nazis.”

    Or maybe they realize that the government shouldn’t get involved in this T-shirt mess. The congresspeople who signed off on this are all for free speech until one of them gets offended. Pathetic.

  26. Stepehn Colbert says:

    Walmart’s response: “NEIN!”

  27. br549 says:

    Congress:
    Don’t tell stores what they can and can’t say.

    Thanks for not getting involved. We still have plenty of real problems to solve. Consumers can take care of this themselves.

  28. 102415 says:

    Valk, I’m sympathetic to a certain degree However, in the two instances that I mention the Official Congress people involved are representing people. Large numbers of politically active voters whose families were murdered not to mention the rest of Americans who fought against said Nazi’s in the bestest war ever in pretty much every part of the country but the South which prefers to obsess with the Civil War first, the WWII second.
    Walmart choses to skew a certain way. OK. they don’t get my business. Fine. I can go to thousands of other places to buy my Nazi T shirt in my own neighborhood. In many smaller towns there is only Walmart left. They’ve run the one other place to buy Nazi T-shirts out of business. Walmart brought it on itself by pretending to be a nice open minded place that is “Good for America”. They are proud to say they sell more organic foods than any other place. Then they get caught for selling things that are not organic under an organic label. They told people that they were not going to sell the shirts and then they continued to sell them pissing off some people whose families have been tortured and killed by Nazi’s. So what, let them write a letter.Please let me know when you get those hate laws off the books.

  29. jeblis says:

    Why is congress getting involved? This is free speech. Walmart can sell whatever design they want .

  30. bhall03 says:

    Finally Congress takes a stand on an issue, and it is a stand that you can actually be proud of.

  31. ValkRaider says:

    102

  32. bhall03 says:

    Jeblis, First there are limits on free speech. Second, they stated 4 months ago that they would remove the shirts. I don’t see any problem with Congress contacting the company. Especially if Congress is acting on the behalf of their constituents, which is their purpose.

  33. ValkRaider says:

    102415:

    WWII was not fought to save the Jews. It was fought to prevent the Germans from taking over the world.

    In fact, most of the outside world knew nothing about the Holocaust until it was busted wide open, LATE in the war.

    Look, no one has said that Nazi’s were right, or that the shirt was a good idea.

    But the simple fact is that NO MATTER WHAT – the US CONSTITUTION GUARANTEES protection of free speech. Even if it is hideous unpopular speech.

    If the people want to stop WAL-MART from being antisemetic – fine, they can organize and take action. But they CANNOT ask the US GOVERNMENT to take action.

    Cut and dried. There is no middle ground. You cannot pick and chose. It is all or nothing.

  34. ValkRaider says:

    United States Constitution, Ammendment 1:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  35. ValkRaider says:

    bhall03:

    You are correct. There are limits on free speech. The limits are that you cannot say something that will put the population in immediate dangerof bodily harm. Thus the “Shouting Fire in a crowded theatre” expression.

    An offensive T-Shirt does not pose a risk of immediate bodily harm, and therefore is protected free speech.

    There are other limitations as well, which do not relate to this category – such as pornographic material and such.

    But generally Nazi materials could be cconsidered political, and therfore would gain some of the highest protections.

    Again – this has nothing to do with whether or not it is tasteful, or even right.

  36. SOhp101 says:

    God, you guys are all idiots. This isn’t even a FREEDOM OF SPEECH issue. It’s a “wake up and smell the INCOMPETENCE IN YOUR OWN COMPANY” issue.

    People act like this took hours and hours of deliberation on behalf of the congressmen/women that signed this but in reality it probably took 30 seconds for the congressperson to read/sign and 2 minutes for the assistant to process it. So let’s see… it took up maybe 10 minutes of the original author of the letter plus 2.5 minutes for each congress member… that totals up to

    Apparently no one knows anything about the way congress works. You know what, maybe congress should butt out of the credit card companies’ and their ways that scam consumers in more than a hundred ways (after all it’s just the effects of the market and a company responding to its demand), but oh wait, that actually affects you so you’ll say ‘Go Congress FTW!’

  37. 5h17h34d says:

    br549 is correct. Mind your own business Congress.

  38. brooklynbs says:

    I think some of you are misinterpreting the letter from Rep. Schakowsky to Lee Scott.

    The only thing Schakowsky is doing is asking Scott to resolve the issue. There’s no threat of action, or suggestion that Wal-Mart is going to be hauled to Capitol Hill for hearings on the matter. It’s a letter from some concerned people to the CEO of the company, and in this case, the concerned people are members of Congress.

    I’ll echo some of what SOhp101 said and add that this was probably one of dozens of letters sent out on February 8th from a member of Congress addressing consumer or business concerns. Staffers write these letters all the time, addressing the concerns of constituents or the individual member of Congress.

    Congress isn’t “getting involved.” Rather, a Congresswoman is getting involved and asking a retailer to remove an offensive item from their shelves. That’s part of her job and she’s not abusing the Constitution in the process.

  39. Bigpaulies says:

    Your comments about only one Republican signing the letter was typical left-wing propganda. Congresswoman Schakowsky obviously didn’t make the letter available to all 435 representatives or she would of had signatures by 420 of them. The reps who wouldn’t of signed it would of all been Democrats, Kucinich, Waters, Moran, Jackson just to name a few.

    Schakowsky is a political opportunist and that is putting it nicely. She is my congresswoman and represents a very large Jewish population. Sadly, she never fights or speaks out against anti-semitism, but against the big evil Wal-Mart she couldn’t let the opportunity pass by. Whenever her fellow Democrats blame Jews for the war in Iraq or use anti-Semitic rhetoric she puts her head in the sand.

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree with her stand regarding the t-shirt, but Wal-Mart has actually moved pretty fast and too have less than 1/10 of 1% of your stores still carrying product, which is undoubtedly a communication issue not anti-Jewish, is damn good.

  40. Trackback says:

    Consumerist brings news that Wal-Mart is still selling t-shirts with a Nazi-era graphic more than a year after they were recalled. As the site rightly points out, if Wal-Mart can’t get one t-shirt off its shelves, what does that mean for the millions of recalled toys tainted with lead?