It wasn't an accident that Freedom of the Press was enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Our Founding Fathers recognized the critical importance of an independent press to hold the government accountable.
Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost. ~Thomas Jefferson
Newseum is supposed to be a monument to that essential part of democracy, founded in 1997 and moved to its permanent location in central DC in 2008, just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. For a short while, ABC News even used the built-in studio for This Week.
It's actually a pretty interesting place. My daughter went there on an eighth grade trip to DC and came back with a lot of questions about the run up to the Iraq War and parallels of the coverage from Vietnam, which was right in my wheelhouse to discuss. I actually owe the Newseum a debt of gratitude for making my kid realize why I rant the way I do.
Which is why this choice by capitalize on Donald Trump's sliding-into-fascism attack on the media is not only tone-deaf but potentially endangering as well. And not only on the job journalists are doing.
Why in the hell would an institution founded on the importance of journalism to a functional democracy think it's a good idea to print and sell t-shirts that say "You Are Very FAKE NEWS"? After a Twitter backlash, Newseum meekly apologized and withdrew those shirts. But do they understand why it was so outrageous? There are no good answers coming from Newseum.
"The Newseum has removed the "You Are Very Fake News" T-shirts from the gift shop and online," a statement posted on the media-focused museum's website read. "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."
Of course, they're still selling knockoff MAGA hats. Because you know the kind of customer they're looking for?
It's stunning that a group dedicated to showing how critical to our freedoms they are can't understand how large a role they've played in undermining them.