The Washington, D.C., attraction “dedicated to the importance of a free press and the first amendment” was selling “You are very fake news” T-shirts.
At the end of a week in which getting the White House to clarify whether it considers the news media “the enemy of the people” was a major story, the journalism-foundation website Poynter.org made a revelation after visiting the website of the Washington, D.C.-based Newseum of journalism. The attraction “dedicated to the importance of a free press and the first amendment” was selling “You are very fake news” T-shirts.
Before reversing course Saturday, the museum sold the T-shirts alongside Make America Great Again hats and other items that could appeal to supporters of President Donald Trump, who popularized the term “fake news” and frequently battles with news outlets and reporters he says are unfair to him. Recently Trump’s rhetoric has raised concerns that the hostility he has cultivated among his supporters could lead to violence.
Against this backdrop, most reporters reacting to the disclosure of the “fake news” shirts at the Newseum were not amused.
Steve Reilly tweeted “A memorial at the @Newseumpays tribute to 2,323 journalists who died reporting the news, many of them at the hands of foreign regimes hostile the press.”
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Leigh Giangreco tweeted “Your ‘fake news’ t-shirts aren’t funny, @Newseum They make a mockery of the reporters, whose names you have inscribed on your walls, who died for their vocation.”
Sonya Gavankar, director of public relations for the Newseum, previously defended the merchandise to Poynter, a journalism teaching organization, saying the items were part of the museum’s dedication to a wide range of viewpoints.
That didn’t necessarily fly with journalists on Twitter.
Justin Fenton tweeted “Sigh. It’s not about ‘free speech.’ People can say ‘fake news,’ and the @Newseumcan sell the shirt if it wants to. The fact that it’s antithetical to the Newseum’s mission is the issue. The baseball Hall of Fame doesn’t sell ‘baseball sucks’ shirts”
By Saturday, the museum had reversed its stance, announcing in a statement online that is has “removed the ‘You Are Very Fake News’ T-shirts from the gift shop and online.”
“We made a mistake and we apologize,” the statement said. “A free press is an essential part of our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the people.”