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Trump Wants Pulitzers Rescinded for Russia-Gate Reporting From Wapo, Times

October 29, 2021 by Dan McCue
Trump Wants Pulitzers Rescinded for Russia-Gate Reporting From Wapo, Times
The Washington Post building. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump wants the Pulitzer Prize Board to rescind Pulitzers awarded to The Washington Post and The New York Times in 2018 for their coverage of Russian interference into the 2016 presidential campaign.

In bestowing the award, the Pulitzer Board said the papers were being commended for their, “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration.” 

But in a lengthy letter dated Oct. 3 and addressed to interim Administrator Bud Kliment, Trump rips into the now three-year-old reporting into ties between the Kremlin and the Trump presidential campaign, calling it “false reporting” and worse.

“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,” the former president said.

Trump goes on to assert that he was “exonerated” of charges of inappropriate collusion with Russians trying to influence the outcome of the election by the indictment of Michael Sussmann, a cybersecurity attorney who had worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Sussmann was indicted on charges of lying to the FBI in a meeting where he shared information about The Trump Organization and Russia.

The indictment was the second such case brought by special counsel John Durham after a two-and-a-half year investigation. Sussmann has pleaded not guilty.

The Russia investigation conducted by former FBI Director Robert Mueller ended in the convictions of six Trump advisers.

In the 448-page report Mueller delivered to then-Attorney General William Barr, the special council said “the investigation established multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government. Those links included Russian offers of assistance to the Campaign. In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away.”

“Ultimately, the investigation did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities,” the report said.

Trump first called for the Pulitzer given to both newspapers to be revoked in 2019 after Barr issued a controversial summary of the former special counsel findings.

Trump also claimed the reporting of “numerous conservative news outlets and commentators” undermined the reporting of the Times and the Post, “exposing the clear logical fallacies contained in their narratives and pointing to the clear lack of evidence underpinning them.”

“For over a century, the Pulitzer Prize has been widely recognized as a significant achievement in the field of journalism,” the former president continued. “It has been viewed by many as an honor that is meant to be bestowed upon well-deserving recipients in recognition of their groundbreaking journalistic efforts. 

“This level of reverence carries with it a very important connotation, namely that the reporting itself is inherently deemed credible, well-sourced and trustworthy. …  When it becomes apparent that a Pulitzer Prize-winning work was based on shoddy, dubious and manifestly false reporting — as is the case here — the Pulitzer Prize Board must react accordingly,” he wrote.

Trump concluded by saying his hope is that the Times and the Post would voluntarily “surrender” their shared 2018 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. 

“However, should they fail to do so, 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. Without holding the recipients to such a high standard of accountability, the integrity of the Pulitzer Prize namesake stands to be wholly compromised,” Trump said.

In a statement provided by email to The Well News, the Pulitzer board said it “has a standing process for reviewing questions about past awards, under the guidelines of which complaints are considered by an appointed committee.”

The Well News also reached out to The New York Times and The Washington Post for comment.

There is only one instance of a Pulitzer prize being withdrawn and that involved Janet Cooke, a Post reporter who in 1981 fabricated a profile about an eight-year-old heroin addict.

Things began to unravel in regard to that story rather quickly. “Jimmy’s World” was published on Sept. 28, 1980, and despite the concerns of some at the paper who doubted its veracity, Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward submitted it for the Pulitzer Prize. Cooke won the feature writing prize on April 13, 1981.

But the story about Cooke’s reputation began within hours. The Toledo Blade, the newspaper for which Cooke had formerly worked, was preparing a story about the now-celebrated ex-reporter, when it noticed big differences in the bio submitted by the Post on Cooke’s behalf and the bio in the Blade’s personnel records.

Questioned for more than 11 1/2 hours by the Post’s editors, Cooke finally confessed her story was fraudulent.

Two days after the prize had been awarded, Post publisher Donald Graham held a press conference, admitted that the story was a fake and said the paper would give the prize back.

The newspaper also printed an editorial, apologizing to its readers, but Ben Bradlee, the legendary executive editor of the Post, never got over it.

In an article on the affair published in the Post on April 16, 1981, Bradlee said, “The credibility of a newspaper is its most precious asset, and it depends almost entirely on the integrity of its reporters. 

“When that integrity is questioned and found wanting, the wounds are grievous, and there is nothing to do but come clean with our readers, apologize to the Advisory Board of the Pulitzer Prizes, and begin immediately on the uphill task of regaining our credibility,” he said.

The prize was re-awarded to Teresa Carpenter of The Village Voice.

More recently, in December 2020, the Pulitzer Prize Board said on Tuesday that it would no longer recognize The New York Times podcast “Caliphate” and a related article as a 2019 Pulitzer finalist. 

The board stripped The Times of its finalist status four days after the news organization announced that the 2018 audio series did not meet its standards for accuracy.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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