The Newseum in Washington DC. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Washington DC's Newseum apologises for selling "fake news" t-shirt

Robert Picheta, 08.08.2018
Museum removes item from gift shop after outcry from journalists
The Newseum in Washington DC, which celebrates the role and history of journalism in the US, has apologised for selling a t-shirt with the slogan “You are very fake news” and removed the item from its gift shop.

Journalists criticised the museum after it was revealed that it was selling the merchandise, which featured a pejorative repeatedly used by the US president Donald Trump to criticise the media.

“We made a mistake and we apologise,” the museum said in a statement. It added: “A free press is an essential part of our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the people” - a reference to another phrase used by the president to describe the media.

The museum says its mission is to “increase public understanding of the importance of a free press and the First Amendment”. Its sponsors include the New York Times, NBC News and ABC News, all of which have been labelled “fake news” by Trump.

Permanent exhibits include a memorial to more than 2,300 journalists who have died while reporting the news.

The New York Times journalist Michael Barbaro called the t-shirts “a very bad idea”, writing on Twitter: “You exist to honour, examine and protect the news media, not embrace the bywords by which others seek to undermine it.”

The museum’s spokeswoman, Sonya Gavanka, had originally defended the t-shirts, telling CNN: “Fake news is a word that is in our popular culture now and this is intended to be a ‘satirical rebuke’.”

The museum’s gift shop continues to sell other Trump-related merchandise, including “Make America Great Again” hats, which it defended in its statement, saying: “As an organisation 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.”

Trump has repeatedly labelled negative news stories “fake news”, often naming specific organisations and journalists in his criticism. Two UN freedom of speech experts warned last week that his attacks, which the president has never provided evidence for, could put journalists at increased risk of violence.

Last Thursday at a rally, Trump described journalists as “horrible, horrendous people”, before tweeting that the media “purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!”

The Newseum opened in 1997 and had more than 850,000 visitors last year.