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Following widespread outcry on social media, the Newseum has removed “You Are Very Fake News” tee shirts from its gift shop and online store.
“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 Washington, D.C., institution said Saturday in a statement.
The museum has also come under fire for stocking “Make America Great Again” merchandise supporting the 2016 campaign slogan of now-President Donald Trump. He has called the news media “the enemy of the people.” At a political rally Thursday night, Trump continued his attacks on the media, saying that it “make[s] up stories” and was “fake, fake disgusting news.”
As of Saturday morning, the museum had not removed MAGA merchandise from its online store and called stocking “presidential slogans” a celebration of the “freedom of speech.”
“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,” the statement read. “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.”
When the merchandise first came to attention of journalists, many criticized the choice to stock “fake news” and MAGA merchandise on social media. “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,” CNN’s Brian Stelter tweeted.
“The Newseum is funded by Networks and their parent companies, and philanthropic orgs — all with employees who devote their lives and livelihoods to stand for everything that is *not* fake news. This is unwise and I encourage the Newseum to rethink this. It’s an insult,” Starfish Media CEO Soledad O’Brien added. Politico ran an opinion story titled, “The Newseum Deserves to Die.”
One Twitter user pointed out that the Newseum gift shop sold “Trump hair” cotton candy and “I’m With Her” tee shirts, referring to Trump’s 2016 presidential election rival, Hillary Clinton, in June. Neither items are currently sold on the online store.
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