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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Oliver O'Connell

Trump renews threat against Pulitzer for awarding ‘Russia hoax’ reporting


Donald Trump has repeated his claim that he will sue the Pulitzer Prize board, this time saying it will happen within the next two weeks.

The former president has previously threatened to sue the organisation if it does not rescind awards for reporting on Russian 2016 election collusion by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Mr Trump first made the threat in late 2021, and repeated it on Saturday night in a speech at a “Save America” rally in Robstown, Texas, as one of the many grievances he mentioned during his rambling remarks.

“They gave out the Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Russia hoax … so you have reporters from The Washington Post and The New York Times who have Pulitzer Prizes, and they reported the exact wrong thing,” the former president told the crowd.

“So, within the next two weeks, we’re suing the Pulitzer organisation to have those prizes taken back. We’ll be doing that over the next two weeks but I think it’s a very good lawsuit but we’ll see,” he added.

Mr Trump then suggested who should get Pulitzer prizes instead, naming Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, and Laura Ingraham.

The legal threat was first brought up in November 2021 after federal indictments against sources to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the infamous “Steele dossier”, a series of allegations about Mr Trump collected by former British spy Christopher Steele.

While the Steele dossier was referenced in some parts of the “Russiagate” reporting, the Pulitzer Prize was awarded to The New York Times and The Washington Post for a series of 20 stories published between February and September 2017. The submission focused on revelations including Michael Flynn talking to Russia’s envoy before the inauguration, the Obama administration’s handling of allegations, Mr Trump’s response, and the subsequent Mueller investigation.

“It is hereby demanded that the Pulitzer Prize Board take immediate steps to strip The New York Times and The Washington Post of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting," wrote Trump attorney Alina Habba in a letter to Bud Kliment, the interim administrator of the awards.

“Pulitzer Prize Board’s failure to do so will result in prompt legal action being taken against it. Please be guided accordingly.”

Ten reporters from the two papers won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage” of Russian interference connections to the Trump campaign.

Mr Trump’s legal threat references two sources: Michael Sussmann and Igor Danchenko, who faced criminal charges for lying to federal investigators but were both acquitted.

Mr Sussman allegedly did not disclose to the FBI that he was representing the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton when he gave evidence about communications between the Trump campaign and Russian bank Alfa Bank.

Mr Danchenko, meanwhile, was accused of fabricating a phone call about a "well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Following the indictments from Special Counsel John Durham, The Washington Post corrected and retracted parts of two articles from 2017 and 2019 that were related to the Steele dossier.

Neither of those stories was included as part of the Post’s Pulitzer submission.

The Pulitzer Center, part of Columbia University’s journalism school, defended the awards back in July, stating that Mr Trump’s continued criticism of the media’s focus on the very-real investigation was baseless given that reporters had no way of predicting the outcome.

Mr Trump’s complaints “prompted the Pulitzer Board to commission two independent reviews of the work submitted by those organizations to our National Reporting competition. Both reviews were conducted by individuals with no connection to the institutions whose work was under examination, nor any connection to each other,” stated the board.

“The separate reviews converged in their conclusions: that no passages or headlines, contentions or assertions in any of the winning submissions were discredited by facts that emerged subsequent to the conferral of the prizes,” the board’s statement concluded. “The 2018 Pulitzer Prizes in National Reporting stand.”

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