Sears and Kmart took down a listing for a T-shirt reading “Ashli Babbitt American Patriot” in response to online backlash. Babbitt has been cast as a right-wing martyr in the months since she was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to enter the building with a crowd of rioters on January 6.
On Twitter, where Vox journalist Aaron Rupar called attention to the listings yesterday, users condemned the retailers for promoting a product praising Babbitt’s actions at the Capitol. Within hours, however, the links led to 404 error pages and Sears had responded with a message confirming the product was no longer available for sale. (FN has also reached out to Sears and Kmart’s parent company, Transform Holdco LLC, for comment.)
The shirt was listed on Sears and Kmart’s online marketplace platform, meaning it was likely uploaded to the retailers’ sites by a third-party vendor without any internal approval from Sears and Kmart employees. Such marketplaces typically use artificial intelligence to catch hateful or potentially offensive products before they’re listed, but there have been countless instances of merchandise slipping through the cracks.
Amazon, for one, has pulled items reading “Black Lives Don’t Matter” and “Slavery gets s**t done” only after public outcry, while Walmart promised to review its marketplace policies after it was called out for selling T-shirts promoting the impeachment of former president Donald Trump. (In the years since, however, it has faced further calls for boycotts over cocaine Santa sweaters and “All Lives Matter” merchandise.)
These incidents have repeatedly highlighted the problems with policing hundreds of thousands of third-party sellers — something Target, at least, has sidestepped by making its marketplace invite-only. While it’s unclear whether Sears or Kmart ever made a penny from the sale of the T-shirts, the listings appear to have been live on their sites since January 8, and many people will see their brand names above the products and assume an association.