The president highlighted negative coverage he said showed bias.
President Donald Trump tweeted out the winners of his “Fake News Awards” on Wednesday night, proclaiming, “And the FAKE NEWS winners are …”, with a link to the Republican National Committee website.
There, an unsigned entry opened by saying, “2017 was a year of unrelenting bias, unfair news coverage, and even downright fake news.”
Rather than specific awards, per se, the site listed 10 news stories — from a range of mainstream outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post — that Trump viewed as false.
The entries focused on stories where the media outlets had admitted errors and issued corrections, like those by ABC News’ Brian Ross, who was suspended and then reassigned for an erroneous report on Trump and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Other entries included Time’s mistaken report about Martin Luther King Jr.’s bust being removed from the Oval Office and CNN’s incorrect reporting on when Donald Trump, Jr. had access to hacked WikiLeaks documents.
Entry No. 11 was not another news story, but Trump’s claim that “Russian collusion is perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. THERE IS NO COLLUSION.”
Whether his campaign colluded with Russia to affect the presidential election is currently the subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The page also listed several accomplishments of the president.
Moments after the initial tweet, Trump added a backhanded compliment to some reporters, saying, “Despite some very corrupt and dishonest media coverage, there are many great reporters I respect and lots of GOOD NEWS for the American people to be proud of!”
When Trump initially sent his tweet, the link to GOP.org did not load for more than an hour. Instead, it displayed an error message reading, “The site is temporarily offline, we are working to bring it back up. Please try back later.”
White House Correspondents’ Association president Margaret Talev issued a statement in response to the awards, saying, “Reporters will continue to work every day to inform Americans what their government is doing in their name and with their money.”
At an event on press freedom co-hosted by the Newseum and the Committee to Protect Journalists on Wednesday night, the affair came to a screeching halt when an audience member mentioned Trump released the awards mid-event.
CNN’s Jim Acosta, when informed by POLITICO that his network was among the recipients, fired back: “I would say, having been called fake news myself, the president is the king of fake news.”
Earlier in the day, political observers questioned the wisdom of the awards to POLITICO.
With the awards, Trump is drawing attention to negative reporting about him, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
“He’s priming stories that are negative, that is, they don’t help him. He’s making them more available and he’s gathering them up in one place,” she said.
“The number of consequential things on the agenda right now that should be occupying the president’s attention is extraordinarily high, the government shutdown among them,” she added. “One might ask the question, ‘Aren’t there better uses of your time?’”
Longtime Republican strategist Stuart Stevens, said the awards could help Trump with his supporters, since it “reinforces what his base wants to believe about news media.”
But he added, “What I am more struck by is just the lack of respect for the Constitution. It is an attack on the First Amendment.”
The awards were been given out on the same day that Sen. John McCain wrote a column in The Washington Post decrying Trump’s war on the press while fellow Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake compared Trump’s attacks on the media to those made by Joseph Stalin.
“No longer can we compound attacks on truth with our silent acquiescence,” Flake said. “No longer can we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to these assaults on our institutions. And Mr. President, an American president who cannot take criticism — who must constantly deflect and distort and distract — who must find someone else to blame — is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the president adds to the danger.”