It started with a tweet. On Jan. 2, Donald Trump published a missive in which he declared, “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!”
As the big day drew closer, the president delayed his own deadline, boasting, in true Trumpian fashion, “The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!”
The New York Times, with a cutting tone that seemed more than appropriate given the circumstances, described the dynamic nicely:
President Trump — who gleefully questioned President Barack Obama’s birthplace for years without evidence, long insisted on the guilt of the Central Park Five despite exonerating proof and claimed that millions of illegal ballots cost him the popular vote in 2016 — wanted to have a word with the American public about accuracy in reporting.
On Wednesday, after weeks of shifting deadlines, and cryptic clues, Mr. Trump released his long-promised “Fake News Awards,” an anti-media project that had alarmed advocates of press freedom and heartened his political base.
“And the FAKE NEWS winners are …,” he wrote on Twitter at 8 p.m.
Those who clicked on the link were taken to a page at the Republican National Committee’s website, which, for a while, did not actually work. In time, however, the “winners” made the rounds, and we saw that Trump World had put together little more than a list of instances in which reporters made a mistake.
What the “awards” failed to note, of course, was that the news organizations Trump was eager to condemn had corrected those missteps. In other words, after a year of whining about “fake news,” Trump managed to find some media professionals who made mistakes that were retracted and/or corrected.
Attempts at presidential fanfare notwithstanding, this turned out to be the one thing Trump never wants to be: boring.
There were no “categories.” There was no evidence of “corruption.” The idea behind the project was obviously misguided, but if you’re a president who’s intent on attacking your country’s free press, you might as well invest some effort into putting on a show.
But Trump, who appears to be getting lazy – his new, uninspired nickname for Dick Durbin is “Dicky Durbin” – didn’t bother. The president had the hype, but couldn’t deliver.
The Washington Post took a closer look at each of the examples from Trump’s list of “awards” and found “at least eight of the ‘Fake News’ winners resulted in corrections, with two reports prompting suspensions or resignations. Two of the winners were simply tweets that were quickly corrected and never resulted in news articles. One was an opinion article in which the author later retracted his prediction.”
If this is the best Trump and his team could do, why bother?