Turns Out the Reported Racist Delay of Harriet Tubman's $20 Note Was Fake News

A few weeks ago, it was announced that a new $20 bill graced by Harriet Tubman wouldn’t be shown in 2020.

This set off a wave of condemnation and claims of racism backed by absolutely no evidence. We are supposed to believe that Trump dislikes non-whites so much that he personally intervened in the situation and delayed the project. Here’s a taste of some of the stories that got pushed out.


This from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But this decision – like so many of Trump’s statements, decisions, and policies – clearly seems undergirded by racism and misogyny. It is not lost on the American public that candidate Trump opposed putting Tubman on the $20 bill in 2016, calling the move “pure political correctness.” He offered to consider placing her portrait on the little-used or circulated $2 bill instead.

Here’s Newsweek reporting random tweets as newsworthy.

While Mnuchin maintained the delay in the $20 bill that would celebrate Tubman, who helped free dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad, came down to “security” issues, many have dismissed that justification as an excuse for what they say is a combination of racism and “deep-seated misogyny” at play.

And The Daily Beast had this headline.

On the Harriest Tubman $20, Donald Trump Puts His (Racist) Money Where His (Racist) Mouth Is

You get the idea. Trump is a racist who likes Andrew Jackson and he doesn’t want Tubman on the $20 bill so he got involved here and commanded everyone to delay the project until after he leaves office, which is weird because the same media chattering class have told me Trump isn’t going to voluntarily leave office.

Now, more details are coming out and as per usual, there’s a lot more to the story and none of it involves Donald Trump at all.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) fired back at The New York Times late last week over a report that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had intentionally delayed a new $20 bill bearing the image of Harriet Tubman for political reasons.


Here’s some of the official statement, along with a much more logical explanation of why a new note design wasn’t going to be shown in 2020. That’s important to remember, because a new $20 bill with Tubman was never scheduled to be “released” in 2020, not even under Obama, despite the framing to the contrary.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing Director Len Olija confirmed in a statement last week that the BEP “was never going to unveil a note design in 2020.”

“To keep our currency safe and secure, it is unwise to give counterfeiters a look at a potential future note far in advance of a note going into circulation,” Olija wrote. “Additionally, if the concept of a note that was made public by the government were to change during that lengthy amount of time, it would create confusion in the global marketplace, further aiding counterfeiters.”

Olija then dispelled the Times’ reporting, writing that “no Bureau or Department official has ‘scrapped’ anything; it is too early to develop an integrated concept or design until security features are finalized. The aesthetics or look of the note has always come after and been driven by the security features.”

“The illustration published by the New York Times was a copy of an old Series note with the signatures of former officials, with a different image imposed on it,” Olija concluded. “It is not a new $20 note, as incorrectly stated by the New York Times, in any way, shape or form. The facsimile contained no security features or offset printing included on currency notes. There is nothing about that illustration that even begins to meet technical requirements for the next family of notes.”


The rest of the story here is that the Secret Service has been working on new security features to thwart counterfeiters for years. These will appear on the $10 and $5 bills first. Because their work is not yet complete, there is no way to actually reveal a new $20 bill design. Besides, that’s not something the Engraving Bureau would do before going to print. In the sense that there is any “delay,” it’s spawned by the ongoing technological challenges in dealing with counterfeiting.

Here’s the thing that’s frustrating about the reporting on this. If you read The New York Times article, you can pick out bits and pieces that add up to exactly what Olija says in the statement. Yet, the Times chose to fill their print space with wild conjecture and anonymously-sourced nonsense to push a narrative anyway. There’s also the reality that Trump’s administration leaks like a sieve. If there was some grand conspiracy spurred by the President to delay the new $20 design, there’d be evidence of that out there.

A complete misconstruing of facts is also at play. As noted, the Tubman bill was never going to be released in 2020 and it’s still coming within a similar time frame as laid out by the Obama administration.

This entire thing is just nonsensical. Trump would have no incentive to purposely delay the project, and there isn’t any evidence he intervened in any way whatsoever. Media outlets could have done the responsible thing and not reported rank speculation and race-baiting, but they chose to throw baseless red meat to the conspiratorial left anyway. They were, of course, happy to gobble it up.


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