Martha Stewart boasted in an interview published Wednesday of “always” traveling with “a very comfortable shawl” — a shawl that, if it is what she originally said it is, is illegal for Americans to own or travel with because it is made from the hair of slaughtered endangered Tibetan antelopes.
The lifestyle maven let slip her potentially guilty pleasure in a New York Times story entitled “What Martha Stewart Can’t Travel Without.” Her list of must-have travel accessories included Rimowa luggage, which can cost $600 or more per piece, and “three iPads.”
“One’s just for books, one’s for TV show series and one’s for movies,” Stewart said explaining her iPad trifecta.
The frequent flyer’s third listed item was a “shahtoosh.”
“I always take a very comfortable shawl, a shahtoosh,” she told the Times.
“They weigh almost nothing and they’re as warm as a down comforter. It’s paper thin, it goes through a wedding ring,” said Stewart, who sold her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, for $353 million in 2015.
When told about Stewart’s “shahtoosh” comment, a top official at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, said that if, in fact, Stewart owns an shawl that is actually made from shahtoosh: “That would be an issue.”
Americans cannot own a shahtoosh shawl or other shahtoosh product “because it was illegally brought into the United States,” said the official, Edward Grace, acting assistant director for law enforcement for the FWS.
And “You can’t travel out of the United States with it, and it can’t be going into the United States,” Grace said.
He noted that when Fish and Wildlife Service agents encounter a shawl they suspect is made from shahtoosh, the first test they do is to see if the garment can pass through a ring.
“Shahtoosh is pretty much the only fabric that you can pull the entire shawl, which is several feet long, through a wedding ring,” Grace said.
In response to a request for comment, Stewart provided CNBC an emailed statement. “I should have said shahtoosh-like, which is what I meant,” Stewart said.
“I am fully aware of the endangered species category, and no one is more of an animal rights advocate than I am,” Stewart said. “I live on a farm with over 250 animals and would never support endangering any animal.”
After CNBC reached out to Stewart’s spokeswoman to ask about the Times interview, the newspaper updated its online version of the story with the following comment.
“[Update: After this article was published, Ms. Stewart hastened to clarify that the shawl is made from cashmere and is not an actual shatoosh, which uses the hair of an endangered Tibetan antelope.]” (sic)
Prosecutors said Stewart dumped that stock after her stockbroker’s assistant tipped Stewart to the fact that ImClone’s CEO, Samuel Waksal, was trying to sell some of his own shares. Stewart had claimed to authorities that she sold the stock only because of an earlier agreement with her broker to sell it if the price fell below a certain threshold. But a jury didn’t buy that explanation.
Shahtoosh, which means “king of fine wools” in Persian, is made from the hair of Tibetan antelopes that are also known as “chiru.”
Chiru, are “rare and highly protected,” according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Tibetan antelope since 1979 has been listed as an “Appendix 1” endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, according to a document published by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Importation of any part of product of [the Tibetan antelope] is prohibited by U.S. law,” that document said.
In 2006, the FWS moved to add protections to the chiru by listing it as part of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.