Journalists Are Outraged by 'Fake News' T-shirts Sold at Newseum
The Newseum in Washington, D.C., has started selling "Make America Great Again" hats alongside its usual America-themed merchandise.
Aside from arguably the most famous Trump-related piece of merchandise, the Newseum also started selling merchandise featuring one of the president's favorite quotes—a T-shirt that says "You are very fake news."
The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE. I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018
That's an interesting choice for an institution dedicated to celebrating the history of journalism, and it was obviously upsetting to working journalists.
It also shouldn't escape notice that the front here is clearly intended to parody CNN's logo and this is not just a general term in the vernacular. https://t.co/pfxVynH56F
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) August 3, 2018
This t-shirt doesn’t belong anywhere. It particularly doesn’t belong at the @Newseum, a place that celebrates journalism and has the First Amendment etched in stone outside its building. https://t.co/7ecmjcGOyq pic.twitter.com/AhEgRVA7wE
— Matt Viser (@mviser) August 3, 2018
.@Newseum, as a reporter, you just lost my business.
— Tara Copp (@TaraCopp) August 3, 2018
"I'm not sure that I think it's the greatest, especially with the Newseum logo on there," Esther Wojcicki, a Newseum board member and journalism teacher, told the New York Times. "You're kind of a walking billboard when you're wearing a T-shirt. You want to promote a message in one glance."
According to Poynter, the Newseum announced on Aug. 4 that it will no longer sell "Fake News" items on its website or in its gift shop.
"The Newseum has removed the 'You Are Very Fake News' T-shirts from the gift shop and online," the statement said. "We made a mistake and we apologize. A free press is an essential part of our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the people."
Axios reported that the shirts had been on sale at the Newseum since last year, but recent statements from the president deriding the press had caused increased tension among working journalists and the idea of validating the cry of "fake news" as being synonymous with bad press was troubling.
Scott Williams, president and CEO of the Newseum, told the New York Times that the "Fake News" merchandise was meant to be a "satirical rebuke" that goes along with other merchandise featuring "other 'tongue-in-cheek' sayings."
As for the sale of MAGA hats, which has confused some considering the Newseum is a nonpartisan organization, Williams said that none of the profits go toward Trump or his campaign, and are only for sale as a representation of the current administration. The Newseum sold Obama merchandise like buttons and T-shirts while he was in office.
For a nonpartisan organization designed to champion journalism, giving voice and credibility to the "fake news" cry is unsettling to working press. Even though one can see the "tongue-in-cheek" intentions, as Newseum trustee emeritus Robert MacNeil told the New York Times, "I don't think it's a great joke."