The Newseum, Washington D.C.’s tribute to the history and importance of a free press and the First Amendment is under fire for selling “Fake News” t-shirts and MAGA hats.
Poynter first reported on Friday about the apparel, which is causing a stir among journalists. The t-shirts, which read, “You Are Very Fake News” are selling for $24.99 (now on sale online for $19.97) and promote President Donald Trump’s incessant attacks on and demonization of the press.
Inside, the Newseum features a permanent memorial to journalists who have been killed while doing their jobs. Their deaths “illustrate the dangers faced by journalists around the world,” according to the Newseum’s website. But selling “Fake News” t-shirts promotes a narrative about the media that could have severe consequences for journalists. As CNN reported, the phrase is used “by authoritarian regimes around the world” to justify retaliation against reporters.
Newseum spokesperson Sonya Gavanka called the decision to sell the shirts a “satirical rebuke.” In a statement, Gavanka said, “The mission of the Newseum is to champion freedom of the press along with all the freedoms of the First Amendment, so being a place where people of different viewpoints feel welcome is very important.”
She added, “All the merchandise in our store goes through a vetting process. Of course, we’re well aware of the political temperature in the country, but we will continue to be a nonpartisan organization that champions the rights of all to free speech.”
Some journalists are insulted by the message. Michael Barbaro, who hosts the The New York Times‘s “The Daily” podcast, tweeted to the Newseum that the t-shirts are a “very bad idea.” Barbaro wrote, “[Y]ou exist to honor, examine and protect the news media, not embrace the bywords by which others seek to undermine it.”
Others called out the museum for making money off the president’s attacks on journalists, calling the Fake News t-shirts a “mockery” of reporters who have died while doing their jobs.
In recent weeks, the president has continued his assaults on the press at campaign rallies, and has referred to the media as the “enemy of the people.” New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger also met with the president last month to urge Trump to rethink his attacks on journalists. Sulzberger called the president’s attacks, “not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.”