“Make America Great Again” hats and “Fake News” t-shirts are among the most popular items at the nation’s news museum, Newseum, in Washington, but the museum said that the shirts have been removed from their store and online following an outcry.
The outcry started late Aug. 3 when people, including a set of journalists, discovered that Newseum was selling the shirts and hats.
Initially, the museum stood by selling the items.
“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, director of public relations for the Newseum, told Poynter.
“The MAGA hat and the FBI hat are two of our best-selling items.”
However, on Aug. 4 the Newseum said it had removed the “Fake News” shirts, although the “MAGA” hats appear to still be in stock.
We have 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. https://t.co/eLXa9t646g
— Newseum (@Newseum) August 4, 2018
“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 organization stated.
“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,” Newseum added.
President Donald Trump‘s campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again,” a phrase he often invokes at rallies to loud cheers.
Trump has clarified that by “fake news,” he means reporters who have a biased agenda against him and revel in reporting anti-Trump news even if it’s misrepresented or not true, not all reporters.
“Whatever happened to fair press? Whatever happened to honest reporting?” he said at a rally in Pennsylvania on Aug. 2.
The Pew Research Center said last year that an analysis of 3,000 stories about Trump during the first 100 days of his presidency across 24 different media organizations found that reporting on Trump has been the most negative compared to other presidents over the past 25 years.
A June 2018 poll from Axios and SurveyMonkey found that 72 percent of Americans believe that “traditional major news sources report news they know to be fake, false, or purposely misleading.” Surveys conducted by Pew Research and Gallup have found the same.
Reporters Incensed, Tourists Think It’s ‘Smart’
Numerous reporters have become incensed by Newseum selling the shirts and hats.
“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,” wrote Boston Globe editor Matt Viser.
“The Newseum says this is about championing ‘free speech.’ The more cynical read: The museum is deep in debt, strapped for cash, and tourists like these trinkets,” added CNN reporter Brian Stelter.
In one infamous case, reporter Jeff Jarvis even compared the merchandise to Ku Klux Klan hoods.
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
But visitors to the museum said the merchandise makes sense.
“I think it’s smart of them, they are capturing an audience,” Washington resident Robert Goldberg told USA Today.
“From a marketing perspective, they nailed it on the head.”
“It doesn’t bug me, because they had Obama ones. He’s the president and they had any other president’s,” added Emily, a 19-year-old from San Antonio, Texas, who declined to provide her last name.