Karen Fratti
January 18, 2018 1:26 pm
The Washington Post / Contributor/Getty Images

Just when you think our president couldn’t be any more terrifying and shameful, he started 2018 off by tweeting that he would be holding an awards ceremony called “the most dishonest and corrupt media awards” to news organizations that he doesn’t like. Initially, they were supposed to be held last week, and after some back and forth about whether they would happen at all,  Trump’s “fake news awards” were released late Wednesday night on the GOP website, and they’re just as unfunny as we all thought they would be.

When he first announced the awards on Twitter, people sprung into action trying to imagine how it was going to go down. Like, was he going to throw a gala at the White House? Would there be actual awards? Late-night talk show hosts such as Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah got into it by putting up a billboard and buying an ad in the New York Times “for the president’s consideration,” respectively, even though neither of those shows are actually news shows.

Alas, the actual “awards” were much more mundane than even late-night talk show hosts could imagine. The official GOP website released the “winners” of Trump’s “highly anticipated fake news awards” Wednesday night writing:

What followed was a list of headlines that Trump (and apparently the GOP) thinks the media got wrong. One of them was a CNN report that the network later retracted and led to the resignation of staff members. Some were predictions from economists about the stock market or whether or not former FBI director James Comey would say certain things during his hearing. Classifying those things as “fake news” is misleading, since they were already addressed by the news outlets or were editorial to begin with.

Others were even more ridiculous, like a GIF of Trump feeding fish in Japan that he felt was unfair, or a picture of a crowd at a rally that Trump thinks was taken too earlier to be accurately representative of crowd size. They weren’t examples of “fake news,” but headlines and angles that made the administration, and Trump especially, look bad. This is something that every single president and administration has had to deal with. Just in case you don’t remember, there were pictures of George W. Bush not being able to find a door or reports that Obama’s health care policies weren’t going to go exactly as his supporters planned. Neither one of those presidents tried to dispute those awkward moments or pretend that partisan analysis of a policy should be banned altogether. None of the “fake news” that made Trump’s cut is really fake news at all.

If the media about Trump is “90 percent negative,” maybe it’s time to look at what he and his administration is actually doing and not point fingers at how its being reported. Really, the amount of time the media has spent on normalizing Trump pales in comparison to the headlines pointing out his many, many flaws.

Trump’s list of “fake news” reads more like a list of “articles he doesn’t like” or “shoddy reporting,” which is totally fair. We all hate when we look bad, right? But his approach to calling out media outlets is immature and pathetic, since not one of the examples has anything to do with our country and everything to do with just how popular Trump is at any given moment. The list is akin to one of his old moves, in which he reportedly pretended to be his own PR rep to make sure his image didn’t suffer in the wake of a high-profile divorce. Back then, it was amusing since he was just a socialite. Now, it’s dangerous, since he’s in the White House and spouting ideas that turn into policies that affect all of us.

Here are few reasons you should ignore the “fake news awards” or not waste any time trying to debunk his examples.

1There are real things we could all be doing.

Although we all know that government is slow to move, there are so many huge, important things on the table right now. Puerto Rico still doesn’t have power or running water. The lives of DACA recipients, along with so many other immigrants who have had their rights revoked, are on the line. No one seems to remember that Trump has been accused of sexual assault by over 19 women. People in Hawaii threw their kids into storm drains over the weekend because they thought a nuclear attack was coming from North Korea, and seriously, we should all be thankful that Trump was out golfing and not watching Fox News when it happened. None of those stories were on his “fake news awards” list.

Instead, Congress is concerned with Trump’s “fake news awards.” On Wednesday morning, Sen. Jeff Flake, who votes with Trump 90 percent of the time, gave an impassioned speech about Trump’s attack on the media and these “fake news awards.” We totally agree that Trump’s attack on journalism is unpatriotic, but the more time rational people (or senators who should be speaking up about the other awful things Trump is doing to people) get mired down in Trump’s games, the more he’s getting exactly what he wants — more discussions about things that aren’t important at all.

Flake compared Trump to dictators, saying, “It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own President uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase “enemy of the people,” that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of “annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader.” On social media, GOP supporters fired back about how that’s an unfair comparison, and yet again…we’re talking about nothing.

2“Fake news” is a real problem, just not how Trump supporters think.

We wish there was a way to get through to people that the news organizations Trump accuses of being “fake” are, in fact, often acting in good faith when it comes to doing their job, which is to investigate things, call out hypocritical power, and make sure things are on the up and up. Although media outlets make mistakes, as CNN and the New York Times has done, they are not “fake” news or just “attacking” the president.

The president’s team is under investigation by the FBI. He’s said very racist things that seem to be affecting his policy decisions. He can’t even tell the truth about whether people show up to events or not. He often seems very concerned with looking popular, tough, and attractive. Mainstream media is doing what they’re supposed to be doing when they cover all of these things because they speak to his credibility and fitness as a president. His only concern should be doing right by other people, and not how people should do right by him. He is not a king. We are allowed to report on him, question him, and yes, mock him. If it feels like this is all “negative,” it’s because it is. The things his administration are doing are very concerning.

There are actual fake news sites out there. In fact, most of them are credited for playing to Trump supporters’ worst prejudices during the 2016 election and making things up. Either Trump and the GOP are willfully and intentionally misleading Americans by discrediting the press and spreading their own “fake news” or they actually don’t understand what reporters do. Both of those things should make us all worried.

3This administration is so shady.

We all laughed last year when then Press Secretary Sean Spicer would yell at reporters and refuse to answers questions. Sanders does the same. But discrediting press organizations and threatening the media — whether it’s to revoke FCC licenses for news channels that criticize the president, posting violent memes, or handing out “fake news awards” — is seriously a meaningful step towards tyranny.

Politicians are allowed to hate the media for getting in their business and informing people of all the shady things they do (even though that’s not all they do), but they can’t block the press from doing their job. They also can’t tell Twitter not to laugh at the president feeding fish (or tossing paper towels into a crowd of hurricane victims, which Trump didn’t deny on Wednesday.) It’s called freedom of the press, and it’s one of the things that makes America a decent place to live in. Joking about giving news organizations “dishonest” awards is just another way to delegitimize the press, and none of the president’s “recipients” on Wednesday night fit the the “fake news”  label.

Trump has spent more time whining about how the media is reporting on his presidency (which again, they’re supposed to do) than actually doing anything useful. On some level, maybe that’s a good thing. His administration’s policy ideas are dangerous to so many groups of people that if he wants to sit around and watch his supporters tweet disses at CNN all night, maybe it’s better than instigating a fight with North Korea’s Kim John Un or banning people from serving in the military because he doesn’t think they deserve to enlist. The press, and Americans, can see through most of his cheap shots (hopefully).

But participating in the “fake news awards,” even if you’re LOL-ing and mocking it, is only encouraging bad behavior. That his party issued a list of stories that have already been retracted or just interpret his presidency in a way he doesn’t like is a huge waste of time. It also shows what most of us have already guessed: That Trump is most concerned with his image. Since that seems to be the case, let’s allow the president to keep stomping around and crying that reporters are being, like, totally unfair to him. There are better ways to resist this than retweeting his fever dreams, like voting and calling out your representatives who are forgetting about the real issues.

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