The Exhibits Honor Journalism; the Gift Shop Sells ‘Fake News’

Indira Lakshmanan, the chairwoman for journalism ethics at the Poynter Institute, questioned this explanation.

“The Newseum says this is about ‘freedom of speech,’ but it feels as if there’s some confusion in definitions here,” Ms. Lakshmanan said in an email. “It’s appropriate for critics of the press to have freedom to air their views. But I think it’s very off message for a museum dedicated to press freedom to sell ‘fake news’ merchandise quoting daily attacks by the president intent on discrediting the press.”

Mr. Williams said the sales of the Trump-related items do not directly benefit the president or his campaign.

“Like all our hats, T-shirts, buttons, etc., those are purchased from a third-party manufacturer,” Mr. Williams said. “The phrase is not trademarked, and no, Trump nor his campaign see any revenue from the sales of that or any other merchandise. Of course, those hats are sold as souvenirs all over D.C., and I’m sure they come from a variety of companies.”

But the optics, nevertheless, raised eyebrows.

“I’m not sure that I think it’s the greatest, especially with the Newseum logo on there,” Esther Wojcicki, a Newseum board member and a journalism teacher, said. “You’re kind of like a walking billboard when you’re wearing a T-shirt. You want to promote a message in one glance.”

Mr. Williams of the museum said that the message behind the “Fake News” shirt is not quite as direct as some critics are suggesting.

“Fake news is a word that is in our popular culture now,” he said, “and this is intended to be a ‘satirical rebuke’ and appears in our store with T-shirts that include a variety of other “tongue-in-cheek” sayings.”

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