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Facing backlash, Newseum stops selling "fake news" shirts

The Newseum has stopped selling T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase "You Are Very Fake News," facing public backlash after journalists suggested the phrase seems to run counter to the museum's stated mission to "increase public understanding of the importance of a free press and the First Amendment."

"The Newseum has removed the "You Are Very Fake News" T-shirts from the gift shop and online," Newseum director of public relations Sonya Gavankar said in a statement. "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."

A search of the Newseum's online store did not show the shirt, which was available for sale on Friday. 

The Newseum faced intense criticism online, particularly from those in the media, after Poynter on Friday first highlighted the museum was selling the shirts. The Newseum initially defended the decision to sell the merchandise, describing it as a freedom of speech issue. 

"We recognize why you're asking the question," Gavankar said when CBS News and other outlets first inquired why the museum would sell the shirts. "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."

"Fake news" is a favorite term of President Trumps, and he has taken to calling what he describes as "fake news" media members as the "enemy of the people," terms some particularly fear is being adapted abroad to denigrate and endanger journalists. The president bristled on Twitter earlier this week after his daughter and top aide Ivanka Trump said she does not believe the media is the enemy of the people. The president clarified that only the "fake news" media are enemies. 

Aside from Twitter, political rallies are some of Mr. Trump's favorite venues to launch his verbal attacks on the media. At a rally in Pennsylvania on Thursday, the president spent much of his speech attacking the media coverage of his recent meetings abroad, in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and even with Queen Elizabeth of England. Mr. Trump bemoaned the lack of positive coverage, saying the media even covered his meeting with the queen negatively.

"They can make anything bad," the president said Thursday. "Because they are the fake, fake, disgusting news."

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.