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MESSAGE ON GAS STATION SIGN FUELS CONTROVERSY

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Is it free speech or hate speech? A sign outside a Nashville gas station has people talking, and has prompted some strong reactions.

The sign outside the Shell station at the corner of Old Hickory Boulevard and Ashland City Highway in Northwest Davidson County read “#Trump that B****” and “Never Forget Benghazi.”

Jennifer Gentry came across the sign while taking her kids to nearby Bells Bend Park and said she found it offensive.

“I was horrified,” said Gentry. “It was terrible language and very hateful.”

Bradford Lewis, the owner of the Shell station and Lewis Country Store, said he has posted various messages on the sign featuring his opinions on politics and other topics over the course of the 12 years he has owned the store.

“We like to have fun with it,” said Lewis. “I own the store, and the last time I checked we still have freedom of speech in the good ‘ole U.S. of A.”  Lewis said the majority of the reactions to the messages has been positive, and he felt it even caused an increase in sales at the store. He said he’s simply expressing his opinion.  “If you sit on the sidelines and don’t ever say anything, I don’t think anything will ever change,” said Lewis.

Gentry said she felt Lewis went too far.   It’s a terrible message, especially at the entry of one of the great parks in the city,” said Gentry. “I also noticed there were a lot of signs from people running from office placed underneath. I did contact them. I am pretty sure they don’t want to be associated with that message.”

It’s not the first time the gas station has posted messages some found to be controversial. In May, the sign read “Closed on Sundays to prep for the Crusade” and “Seven years of Obama and we can’t figure out which restroom to use.”  Lewis said he plans to keep posting messages on the sign in the future.

A spokesperson from Shell Oil Company responded with a statement via email. “We want to assure all motorists that we value their business regardless of political or religious views,” said Natalie Mazey, spokesperson for Shell Oil. “We do have brand guidelines in our licensing agreement that all independent sites must adhere to. When there are violations, we ask for the issue to be addressed. Continued violations could result in more aggressive action including potential de-branding.”

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