February 11, 2019

Journalists really don’t like T-shirts that bear President Donald Trump’s favorite pejorative for the media.

On Monday, Bloomingdale’s said on Twitter that it would discontinue a T-shirt with the term “fake news” emblazoned across the front. The move came after a journalist at WPIX-TV in New York City posted a photo of the shirt on Twitter and criticized the department store for selling it.

Bloomingdale’s isn’t the only store to profit off the term “fake news,” which has transformed from describing deliberately false online news stories to an anti-press cudgel wielded by Trump and other leaders around the world.

In August, the Newseum pulled its “fake news” merchandise after Poynter reported that the journalism museum was selling it in the gift shop. One shirt bore the “You are very fake news” slogan that Trump popularized as a way to delegitimize CNN.

(Screenshot from the Newseum)

Both Bloomingdale’s and the Newseum stopped selling their fake news shirts after an outcry from journalists that said the merch perpetuated the same anti-press rhetoric that has been used as a threat against them. But on shopping platforms like Amazon, fake news merch is alive and well.

A quick search for “fake news shirt” on Amazon yielded more than 500 results as of publication. Among the top hits included shirts bearing phrases like “CNN is fake news,” “You are fake news,” “FNN” (meaning “fake news network,” in CNN’s font) and even a bra that bears the term across the front.

Several of the shirts were sponsored products, meaning sellers paid Amazon to advertise the merch on the platform. Under the company’s advertising policy, sponsored products are not permitted to be political, “including content related to elections, content that advocates pro or against political parties, candidates, or elected officials, political advocacy and other public policy issues.”

But fake news shirts aren’t the only conspiratorial merch that Amazon sells.

In July, Poynter reported that the platform was selling T-shirts sporting the logo for the QAnon conspiracy theory. That hoax posits that the U.S. government has been secretly investigating Democrats and the Justice Department will soon reveal compromising information about Hillary Clinton.

How a far-right conspiracy theory went from 4chan to T-shirts

Other conspiracies have also found a home on Amazon. A quick search for “Pizzagate shirt” turned up a few results, as of publication, as well as a few more QAnon T-shirts. The same thing happened when searching for “flat earth shirt.”

(Screenshot from Amazon)

Poynter reached out to Amazon but the company declined to comment on the record.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with a response from Amazon.

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Daniel Funke is a staff writer covering online misinformation for PolitiFact. He previously reported for Poynter as a fact-checking reporter and a Google News Lab…
Daniel Funke

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  • Jeff@amazon.com

    Use this email and remind the people who actually do read them on behalf of the man who apparently understands what fake news is, that this is intolerable. When the cheap, lying political rhetoric of a despot becomes a slogan for the wilfully ignorant, it inevitably results in a few of them deciding it’s ok to shoot up a newspaper or slap a CNN sticker with a cross hairs on their van (look it up) and send a flurry of pipe bombs to people they’re brainwashed to hate. These shirts and other paraphernalia with similar slogans go beyond free speech: they’re political slogans of pure ignorance and hate, which can apparently incite or at least reinforce a blind hatred of the very people they should be encouraging to defend free speech. It’s no different than a T-shirt portraying a Mexican as a rapist or a woman as a dog.

    • I think all journalists should do some self-reflection on how it got to this point in the first place.