Former President Donald Trump is challenging the Pulitzer Prize Board in court over its decision to award a 2018 national reporting prize to The New York Times and The Washington Post for stories about Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Mr. Trump filed a defamation lawsuit in Florida this week, saying the articles relied on a “now-debunked theory” that his campaign colluded with Russia.
The Pulitzer panel awarded the prizes at the time for stories “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.”
Investigators of the Trump campaign have discovered some odd things, including that 2016 campaign chair Paul Manafort directed an associate to give polling information to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political consultant.
But a special counsel report in 2019 found no criminal conspiracy or pattern of “collusion” between the campaign and Russians.
“A large swath of Americans had a tremendous misunderstanding of the truth at the time the Times’ and the Post’s propagation of the Russia Collusion Hoax dominated the media,” the Trump complaint says. “Remarkably, they were rewarded for lying to the American public.”
Mr. Trump’s lawyers say it doesn’t matter if reporters were misled at the time by things like the Steele dossier, which made a series of unsubstantiated and salacious claims about Mr. Trump and Russia.
“What matters instead is the Defendants’ conduct, particularly when many of the key assertions and premises of the Russia Collusion Hoax that permeated the Awarded Articles had been revealed by the Mueller Report and congressional investigations as false after the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting had been awarded,” the complaint says.
The Pulitzer board has defended its award decisions. It says it commissioned multiple reviews into the submissions.
“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 said.
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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