Lewis Country Store is no stranger to controversy, but one of its latest scrolling digital signs outside the gas station at 5106 Old Hickory Boulevard has some passersby wondering whether it’s an issue of free speech or illegality.
Early Friday morning, one such motorist, who wishes to remain anonymous, took photographs of the sign which read “$50,000 reward for Kathy Griffin’s head delivered.”
“I know this seems like a bad joke, but is this legal?” he wrote in an email to The Tennessean. “I’m not sure if this is covered by free speech.”
The sign was likely a response to a recent photograph taken of comedian Kathy Griffin in which she posed with a fake, severed Trump head for photographer Tyler Shields.
In October of 2016, controversial signs including “#Trump that b****” and “Never Forget Benghazi” were posted before Shell Oil cut ties with the gas station.
A sign posted outside Lewis Country Store and then posted on Facebook read, “Due to our refusal to remove our pro-Trump sign, Shell Oil has de-branded us. We will not be threatened or intimidated.”
Tara Ladd, an attorney with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville Department of Law, said that the digital sign is on private property and does not encroach the public right-of-way.
“There does not appear to be an obvious violation of the Metropolitan Code of Laws,” she wrote in an email Friday. “Generally, the First Amendment protects even speech that may be construed as offensive.”
Lewis Country Store owner Bradford Lewis has not returned calls for comment, but the sign has now changed. As of noon Friday, the sign read, “America first, screw the rest of y’all.”