Donald Trump’s contribution to Award Season is finally here!
The Fake News Awards, or, as the GOP website has termed them, the “Highly-Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards” were released (apparently with much apprehension) yesterday. At first headline glance I thought this was a satirical project – perhaps one created by the American news media to round up Donald Trump’s most misleading statements of the year. But no, this project was in fact spearheaded by the President himself, in order to bring attention to the “unrelenting bias, unfair news coverage, and even downright fake news” that allegedly plagued 2017.
Eleven different stories have made the list, ranging from an opinion column, to the Russian collusion allegations, to examples of the unmediated consequences of social media platforms. Other ‘winners’ were very real and very serious reporting mistakes, with equally serious consequences. The Washington Post, who fact-checked the stories behind each of the winners, concluded the following: “…at least eight of the “Fake News” winners results 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.”
So, what’s the lesson behind this bizarre publicity stunt? First, that deliberate attacks on press freedom are endemic to this Presidency. And second, that President Trump does not take truth, or a responsibility to uphold the truth, seriously. If you’re interested, the New York Times has compiled a definitive list of the President’s lies since taking office in January, 2017.
Beyond the domestic democratic consequences, the actions of President Trump carry weight around the world. If the United States, long heralded as the “leader of the free world” and a champion of a free press, can have a president who consistently rebukes reporting on the basis of disagreement, where does that leave governments with entrenched authoritarian tendencies? As argued by Republican Senator John McCain in an op-ed earlier this week, the President’s behaviour provides cover for “repressive regimes to follow suit.”
Journalism is an important, and often dangerous profession. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 2017 was one of the most dangerous years to be a journalist, with the number of jailed journalists at a record high. In response to the Fake News Awards, CPJ actually launched the Press Oppressors Awards, awarding President Trump the runner-up award in the ‘Most Thin-skinned category’.
262 journalists were imprisoned in 2017 (CPJ), and President Trump’s repeated fake news allegations provide fodder for this situation to worsen. So Mr. President…please, please stop attacking the press.
Authored By: Emma McKay, Co-Founder & Editor, mPolitics
P.S. We’re trying something new with our weekly news posts for 2018. Instead of rounding up each week’s top stories, we’ve decided to choose one major news story each week and write a brief critical reflection on the context and situation. As always, we would love your feedback. Please comment below with any thoughts or questions!