- President Donald Trump tweeted a link to his “Highly-Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards.”
- The linked website was not loading for many users.
- A cached version of the website showed that it featured a poll for visitors to select the “winners.”
- The independent, nonpartisan Committee to Protect Journalists, responded by listing its “Press Oppressors” awards, naming Trump the runner-up for “most thin-skinned” world leader.
- A Washington Post analysis published on January 2 found that Trump made 1,950 false or misleading claims in his first 347 days in office.
President Donald Trump teased a website announcing “fake news winners,” but the website, hosted by the Republican National Committee, went offline almost immediately and displayed several different errors.
“And the FAKE NEWS winners are…” Trump tweeted with a link to the website on Wednesday night.
The website displayed the following messages upon loading: “The site is temporarily offline, we are working to bring it back up. Please try back later” and “Don’t worry, we’re making it great again. Start here.”
Trump teased the stunt earlier this month. The right-leaning polling firm Rasmussen – a favourite of Trump’s – conducted a survey late last year in which respondents awarded a “fake news award” to Fox News, Trump’s favourite network.
Links to cached versions of the website were shared on social media Wednesday night. Instead of announcing a predetermined winner, the cached website appeared to be a poll asking visitors to choose a “winner.”
Several news organisations, including National Public Radio, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and Fox News, were listed in the poll.
The Republican National Committee seemed to acknowledge its role in the stunt, saying in a tweet: “Tonight, gop.com saw more traffic than ever before. Even though the servers were scaled up, the interest was even greater than anticipated. Traffic is off the charts. Come back soon.”
As the evening progressed, the website was updated with a ranking of news reports that Trump and, seemingly by extension, the Republican National Committee, objected to. Though Trump often uses the phrase “fake news” in an effort to discredit accurate coverage he doesn’t like, the list featured stories from CNN, ABC News, and other outlets that made errors in their reporting last year.
At the time, those news outlets publicly acknowledged the errors and in some cases retracted or corrected the erroneous stories and took disciplinary action against the journalists involved. Contrary to Trump’s frequent assertion that news reporters “write whatever they want,” the news-media industry is governed by a foundational set of ethical standards.
Trump’s announcement Wednesday night was met with some chagrin in light of a Washington Post analysis published January 2 that found the president made 1,950 false or misleading claims in his first 347 days in office.
Journalism organisations like the independent, nonpartisan Committee to Protect Journalists responded by listing its “Press Oppressors” awards – a list of world leaders who seek to restrict and in some cases persecute reporters. The CPJ recognised Trump as the runner-up for “most thin-skinned” leader and gave him the “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom” award.
The organisation listed the US president among authoritarian leaders like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was given the award for “Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press.” President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt received the same distinction.
Read the Committee to Protect Journalists’ round-up here »
After announcing the “awards,” Trump later tweeted in support of what he called “great reporters” and “good news,” without listing any examples.
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