AMAC Exclusive – By Claire Brighn
More than a year after the Russia Collusion Hoax has completely unraveled, and as evidence continues to emerge that the entire narrative of supposed links between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Kremlin was entirely fabricated by top Hillary Clinton campaign officials, the Pulitzer Prize Board has yet to rescind its 2018 awards to The New York Times and The Washington Post for “reporting” on the false story. The longer the prize committee delays, the more its credibility – what little is left – will continue to erode, taking with it Americans’ trust in mainstream media institutions.
Late last month, former President Trump issued a third letter to the Pulitzer Prize Board requesting that it withdraw its 2018 award to the Times and the Post for “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.” He urged them to pay “close attention” to the trial of Michael Sussman, Clinton’s 2016 Campaign attorney, showing he fed false information to the FBI with candidate Clinton’s approval. “There is no dispute,” Trump said, “that the Pulitzer Board’s award to those media outlets was based on false and fabricated information that they published.”
As Americans will well remember, the “investigation” into Russia’s supposed involvement in the 2016 election was a constant media firestorm throughout the first three years of Trump’s presidency, as the media openly suggested that Trump was an illegitimate President and Democrats in Congress bogged the administration down with mountains of document and interview requests.
Ultimately, after years of time wasted and millions of taxpayer dollars spent, the verdict was clear: no collusion, no corruption. Yet despite this finding, much of the damage had already been done – and even then, many in the mainstream media and even elected Democrats refused to stop pushing the lie that the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russian government.
Consequently, in his letter to the Pulitzer Prize Board, Trump asks the question: “Together with all the publications that have obsessively promulgated excessively false attacks against me…how do I get my reputation back?”
Under different circumstances, the Pulitzer Prize Board might rescind its prize, or The New York Times and The Washington Post might issue apologies to their readers for falling short of their journalistic charge of reporting “truth.” After all, history shows such a move would not be without precedent. In 1981, for example, after it was revealed that Janet Cooke’s infamous “Jimmy’s World” piece about an 8-year-old heroin addict was a complete fabrication, the Pulitzer Prize Board withdrew its award to The Post and the newspaper sent to its readership, in all caps, a note reading “WE APOLOGIZE.”
In 2000, following Times coverage of Dr. Lee, a Chinese-American scientist accused of giving U.S. secrets to China, the paper acknowledged that its reporting had stirred up a “political frenzy” and that, given “the stakes involved, a man’s liberty and reputation,” they would conduct a post-mortem. They found they could “have pushed harder to uncover weaknesses in the F.B.I. case against Dr. Lee,” often did not use “a tone of journalistic detachment from our sources,” and neglected opportunities to provide “balance.” Each of these self-criticisms could apply to Times coverage of the Trump-Russia scandal – yet no apologies have been forthcoming.
So what’s stopping the Pulitzer Board, the Times, and the Post from carrying out the same corrective measures today, in a case that has far greater implications for public trust in the media and the health of our democracy?
The answer seems to be that robust journalism and uncovering the truth were never the measuring sticks the Pulitzer committee used in bestowing the award on the Times and the Post. Rather, the most important criterion was exacting maximum political damage on President Trump.
Even Maggie Haberman, one of the Times staff who won the award, unwittingly confirmed this when she tweeted in 2017: “Folks involved in funding this [the Steele Dossier] lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year.” This suggests at the very least that the Times became aware of bad sources yet failed to go back and fully check the veracity of its reporting.
Another serious problem this fiasco reveals is that the Pulitzer Prize “givers” and “receivers” are essentially one and the same – the prize is a grabfest of self-indulgent back-patting. In 2017-2018, for example, two thirds of the Pulitzer Prize Board was comprised of former Times and Post staff. In 11 out of 14 journalism categories, staff members of the these newspapers were nominated or won.
Dig a little deeper, and the corruption becomes even more evident. The jurors on the national reporting category – comprised of five individuals – did not nominate The New York Times among the finalists. It was the Pulitzer Board who pulled the Times articles in and merged them with The Washington Post stories, adding an extra shot of supposed credibility to the “bombshell story” of Russian collusion.
Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University and a Pulitzer Prize Board member, said in his remarks at the 2018 Pulitzer Luncheon that “this year will stand out in the now century-long history of the prizes as among the most significant.” (Indeed, even a cursory glance at Google Trends analytics shows the “Pulitzer Prize” was a wildly more popular term searched worldwide than in any other year in recent memory). Bollinger continued: “on the political front I think it is clear that the nation is facing the most serious internal attacks on the fundamental values and institutional structures that define a democracy since the Pulitzers were introduced over a century ago” – therein referring to the Trump-Russia collusion hoax and confirming the weaponization of the Pulitzer Prize itself.
There is also the fact that ultra-progressive financier George Soros has donated close to $10 million to Columbia University since 2009, of which well over a million has gone to the Journalism school. According to the “Foundation to Promote Open Society,” $100,000 was donated in 2020 to the Journalism School alone, all “to study the phenomenon of partisan networks masquerading as legitimate news outlets for the purpose of spreading electoral disinformation.” In other words, the money was donated to fund attacks on conservative news outlets.
Considering that the Columbia School of Journalism runs the Pulitzer show administratively – Joseph Pulitzer actually founded the school – this sort of partisan funding immediately compromises the award’s integrity. Moreover, Steve Coll, Dean of the Columbia’s Journalism School, had once worked for The Washington Post. Dana Canedy, then-administrator of the 2018 Pulitzer Prizes, had also worked for The New York Times for over 20 years. Both were on the Pulitzer Prize Board.
The trouble, of course, as journalist Jack Schafer notes in his 2015 piece “The Pulitzer Prize Scam,” is that Pulitzers often set “journalistic orthodoxy” and “professional taboos.” If recent history is any indication, the copious use of anonymous sourcing – not ideal as the modus operandi of journalistic standards – will continue. But perhaps worst of all, the influence of the Pulitzer Prize, paired with the cultural sway of The New York Times and political contacts of The Washington Post, will trudge on. Already, The Post has already reaped another Pulitzer for its Jan. 6 coverage.
This will all undoubtedly continue to have great play in the American political scene, especially leading up to 2024, should Trump run again. But no one should hold their breath waiting for the Pulitzer Prize Board to rescind its 2018 award. The blatantly false content about the 2016 election – and indeed the entirely of Trump’s presidency – peddled out by the mainstream media was always purely a political exercise. The truth, as has so often become the case in American politics generally, was merely an obstacle to the quest for power.
Claire Brighn is the pen name of a conservative researcher and writer with previous domestic and foreign policy experience in the Executive Branch.
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