Donald Trump sent a letter to the Pulitzer Prize board asking them to withdraw the awards given in 2018 to the New York Times and the Washington Post for their coverage of the Russian collusion story, which he says was based on “false reporting” and a “complete lack of evidence.”
“As has been widely publicized, the coverage was no more than a politically motivated farce which attempted to spin a false narrative that my campaign supposedly colluded with Russia despite a complete lack of evidence underpinning this allegation,” Trump wrote to Bud Kliment, the interim administrator of the awards.
President Donald J. Trump's Letter to the Pulitzer Prizes pic.twitter.com/tJlOwf6GdU
— Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) October 3, 2021
Trump pointed to the indictment of Michael Sussmann, a former representative for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, by special counsel John Durham as evidence for his complaint. Durham alleged Sussmann lied to the FBI when he tipped the agency in September 2016 to a possible link between the Trump campaign and Alfa Bank , which has ties to the Kremlin.
The Sussmann indictment “serves as a damning repudiation of the media’s obsession with the collusion story. The indictment pointedly accuses Mr. Sussman of making false statements to the FBI when he presented ‘evidence’ purporting to show secret communications between my organization and the Russia-based Alfa Bank,” Trump added in the letter.
There is little doubt that those publications, and others, lowered their journalistic standards of reporting to publish sketchy, poorly sourced, highly speculative stories about the Trump campaign’s supposed collusion with the Russian government.
Trump isn’t letting them off the hook.
The former president also complained about the framing of the sources featured by the media outlets that received awards for the work, specifically pointing to articles that credited “’people with knowledge,’ ’current and former officials,’ ’some senior U.S. officials,’ and other vaguely defined individuals.”
Trump said the PPB “must act accordingly,” saying the awards carry a “level of reverence” that implies the reporting being honored is “deemed credible, well-sourced and trustworthy.”
“I would expect that you will take the necessary steps to rectify the situation, including stripping the recipients of their prize and retracting the false statements which remain on the Pulitzer website,” Trump wrote.
Donald Trump is right on all counts. That lowering of standards included how sources were framed and the weight given to those sources. It is the lowest point in the history of modern journalism and recalls the days of William Randolph Hearst and the namesake of the prize, Joseph Pulitzer, who wasn’t above printing knowingly false stories to destroy an enemy.
In this case, both the Post and Times probably justified their attempt to destroy Trump because they had convinced themselves that he was a danger to democracy. No one elected them to make that judgment — something they forgot on their way to pick up their Pulitzer Prizes.