On February 7, a newspaper familiar with financial, real estate and management troubles, The Washington Post, reported that the Newseum may have to sell its uber high-rent location at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue, which is only blocks from the Capitol Building (and more importantly only a few dozen feet from a Stoli Doli at the Capital Grille), because its owners can’t pay their bills. The building was appraised for $670 million in 2014.
Literally nobody is surprised that the Newseum operated at an $8.2 million loss in 2016, with an estimated debt burden of $300,000,000! Let’s be honest, I don’t know many people that will pay $25 to see the “Cox First Amendment Gallery” about the Bill of Rights when they can walk exactly 0.2 miles to the National Archives, view the actual Bill of Rights and speak with a subject matter expert if you truly want to understand the history of the document in detail.
Putting up a totem that strokes the egos of the hackery caucus is mind-bogglingly stupid. In fact, it seems like the ridiculously complex manner in which the Newseum was originally pieced together — with one-part condos, one-part museum/event space and one-part retail — was developed in a university student building where big ideas that are devoid of profit and loss run rampant. Why? First, servicing $300 million in debt is expensive. It seems like nobody actually thought of that when thinking through the organization’s long-term revenue streams. Second, many of the exhibits’ themes are readily available online or in the vast Smithsonian network for free. Third, nobody really likes the media. (The latest evidence of dislike is a January 29 survey released by Gallup.)
A stunning survey from Harvard-Harris from mid-2017 showed that two-thirds of the American people believe that ordinary media outlets publish fake news. I would argue the Beltway press corps figures are actually higher, and that D.C. journalists also ignore stories they don’t like (i.e., negative stories to the Democrats). I wish there were stats on the latter. Do you think deplorables are going to spend money from their $1,000 Trump tax bonus “crumbs” on the Newseum’s entrance fee when they come to D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival?
In the 22 years I have lived in Washington, D.C., I have been to the Newseum exactly one time and it was for free for an event. What a lot of people don’t realize is the Newseum is basically an event space, which drives more than twice the revenue of the actual admission dollars. This only happens because of the A+ location — which it can’t afford. Because of the revenue derived from the event space, if the Newseum moves, which seems inevitable in very short order, it will really be a going out of business move.
Which brings us to the title of my piece, “President Trump, Buy the Newseum!” The only thing more irritating to the the media cocktail crowd than President Trump sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, is that his name is splattered across 1100 Pennsylvania Ave at the Trump Hotel. If Trump and his family really want to get under the skin of the media establishment class, even though they were utterly fleeced pre-2008 in funding the Newseum, they should buy this property at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue and put their name across it in big, bright letters. Maybe they can open the Fake News Cafe in the back of the property, which is sure to be better than The Source, which peaked the first month it opened when the proprietor really showed their financial love for then-President Obama.
I’m very Seinfeldian and would 100-percent return a jacket for spite, and it’s probably why I have lived in D.C. for so long since it’s Spite Ground Zero. The Trumps should harness that uniquely human emotion because it would make for some epic humor.
Todd A. Boulanger is a longtime Republican operative who frequently appears across all cable networks to give his thoughts on the political and policy stories of the day.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.