The Newseum has pulled its “You are very fake news” T-shirts after facing backlash especially from journalists who argued that the apparel was contradictory to the museum’s mission statement “to increase public understanding of the importance of a free press and the First Amendment.”
The “fake news” phrase struck a chord on social media with people criticizing the museum for promoting the phrase made popular by President Donald Trump to discredit journalists.
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
In other words, the Newseum is selling merchandise designed to amplify the president’s attack on a specific network—attacks that are designed to chill free speech and punish a free press.
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) August 3, 2018
.@Newseum has a memorial to journalists killed while reporting. So why are they selling “fake news” shirts? It’s one thing to sell political paraphernalia … it’s another to promote a phrase authoritarian regimes around the world use to stop a free press https://t.co/j30qEyttmJ
— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) August 3, 2018
— Steve Reilly (@BySteveReilly) August 3, 2018
— Emily Kuhn (@emkuhn) August 3, 2018
Newseum director of public relations Sonya Gavankar initially defended the decision to sell the “fake news” T-shirts as well as other Trump merchandise such as “Make America Great Again” hats and T-shirts.
“We recognize why you’re asking the question,” Gavankar said in a statement to Poynter. “As a nonpartisan organization, people with differing viewpoints feel comfortable visiting the Newseum, and one of our greatest strengths is that we’re champions not only of a free press, but also of free speech.”
Later, the Newseum released a statement that the shirts have been removed from online and in stores.
“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,” the Newseum said in a statement.
However, the Newseum says it will continue to sell Make America Great Again merchandise.
“Questions have also been raised regarding other merchandise. As an organization that celebrates the rights of people from all political spectrums to express themselves freely, we’ve historically made all types of political merchandise available for our guests to purchase. That has included former and current presidential slogans and imagery and merchandise from all political parties. We continue to do so in celebration of freedom of speech,” the statement concluded.
Gavankar noted to Poynter that the MAGA hat is one of the Newseum’s best selling items.