Newseum pulls ‘Fake news’ shirts over blowback amid Trump’s anti-press rhetoric
“You Are Very Fake News” shirts are no longer being sold by the Newseum, a D.C. institution “dedicated to the importance of a free press and the First Amendment,” after the items sparked outrage in light of the president’s ongoing anti-press rhetoric.
“The Newseum has removed the ‘You Are Very Fake News’ t-shirts from the gift shop and online. 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,” Newseum said in a statement Saturday.
The shirts were the subject of an article published Friday by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, spurring several reporters to accuse the Newseum of amplifying the president’s ongoing attacks on the media.
Broadcast journalist Jim Heath said selling the shirts was “disgusting,” and Pete Souza, a former White House photographer during the Obama administration, called it a “disgrace.”
“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,” Sonya Gavankar, the museum’s director of public relations, said in Friday’s article.
“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,” Ms. Gavankar told NBC News.
Justin Fenton, a crime reporter for The Baltimore Sun, disputed the Newseum’s explanation, tweeting: “It’s not about ‘free speech.’”
“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,” he tweeted.
The phrase “fake news” emerged during the 2016 U.S. presidential race to describe the phenomenon of completely false or grossly misleading news articles shared on social media, but Mr. Trump and his supporters have since adopted it to describe coverage critical of his administration.
Addressing CNN reporter Jim Acosta during a 2017 news conference, Mr. Trump said he was stop labeling the network “fake news” in lieu of using a new term, “very fake news.”
Mr. Trump has repeatedly described the media recently as being the “enemy of the American people,” drawing rebuke Thursday from the Human Rights Office of the High Commission.
“These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law,” UN experts said in a statement.