Gas station offers reward for Kathy Griffin's head

Lewis Country Store is no stranger to controversy, but one of its latest scrolling digital signs outside the gas station at 5106 Old Hickory Blvd. 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."

Later Friday morning, the sign had been changed to read, "America first, screw the rest of y'all."

Lewis Country Store owner Renee Lewis said that the sign was not changed due to any outside pressure; instead, she said, the sign is changed frequently.

"We are not apologizing for it," she said of the sign's reference to Griffin. "People that know us know our sign and that we put a lot of stuff up on there."

"Kathy Griffin said hers was a joke, and that's fine," Lewis added. "It's one bad joke in turn for another, I guess."

As of 11 a.m. Monday morning, the sign read, "Guess what Kathy Griffin can hug ... deez nuts."

Lewis said that she and her husband, Brad Lewis, believe in America first. "We are open to an actual intelligent discussion about this," she said. "If anyone wants to call us up to have an intelligent discussion, I will be more than glad to talk to them."

Tennessean


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