Former President Trump filed a defamation lawsuit on Tuesday against the Pulitzer Prize Board over the 2018 National Reporting prizes given to The New York Times and Washington Post for coverage of “now-debunked theory” of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Trump’s suit, filed Tuesday in Okeechobee County, Florida, was obtained by Fox News Digital. It states that a “demonstrably false connection was and remains the stated basis” for the coverage that received the prestigious award.
The staff of the Times and Post shared the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for National reporting 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,” according to the Pulitzer website.
“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 complaint states. “Remarkably, they were rewarded for lying to the American public.”
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Trump’s team previously called for “a full and fair correction, apology, or retraction” to be issued, in addition to the 2018 prizes being rescinded but the Pulitzer Prize Board declared the awards will stand.
The complaint made a series of points indicating why it feels the Pulitzer Prize-winning stories are unworthy of the honor, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller failing to find evidence of collusion, and a DOJ Inspector General Report outlining malfeasance by federal investigators. Trump’s team also feels the actions of multiple individuals embroiled in the discredited Christopher Steele dossier, such as Michael Sussmann, are evidence to support the claim that the Times and Post aren’t worthy of journalism awards for the Russian collusion narrative.
Subsequent reporting on Russiagate has found that many claims of the Steele dossier that drove early narratives about Trump-Russia collusion were spurious, mere rumors or even outright falsehoods, and that figures like Sussmann acted on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign and pushed collusion narratives that filtered down to the media.
“While elements at both the Times and the Post were almost certainly complicit in the Russia Collusion Hoax, is ultimately immaterial whether the authors of the Awarded Articles understood at the time they were propagating political disinformation manufactured by paid sources in an attempt mislead the public and tarnish President Trump’s reputation and political prospects,” the complaint stated.
“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 continued.
Trump’s team noted that the Washington Post has “retracted statements from several articles from 2017 relating to the Steele Dossier and other alleged connections between the Trump campaign and Russia” but the “retracted articles, which also advanced the Russia Collusion Hoax narrative, were conveniently omitted from the specific articles submitted by the Post for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize.”
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Earlier this year, the Pulitzer Prize Board issued a statement defending the 2018 award.
“The Pulitzer Prize Board has an established, formal process by which complaints against winning entries are carefully reviewed. In the last three years, the Pulitzer Board has received inquiries, including from former President Donald Trump, about submissions from The New York Times and The Washington Post on Russian interference in the U.S. election and its connections to the Trump campaign–submissions that jointly won the 2018 National Reporting prize,” the Pulitzer Prize Board wrote earlier this year.
“These inquiries 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. 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 continued.
Trump’s team wrote that the statement was published with “knowledge or reckless disregard for its falsity” and board members “knew that the Russia Collusion Hoax had been thoroughly discredited numerous times by exhaustive, credible, official investigations, contradicting the ‘deeply sourced, relentlessly reported’” award-winning articles.
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“At the time of publication, nearly every branch and agency of the federal government had examined this issue and reached the same conclusion: there was no conspiracy or cooperation between President Trump or the Trump Campaign and Russia,” Trump’s team wrote.
“The Pulitzer Statement was knowingly published by Defendants to create a false implication in the mind of the reader that ‘the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration’ was connected with Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Defendants did so with actual malice and the intention to harm President Trump and his reputation,” the complaint said, adding that if defendants didn’t know they were untruthful then “Defendants purposely avoided further investigation with the intent to avoid the truth.”
“In either case, Defendants published the Pulitzer Statement with actual malice,” the complaint said. “Plaintiff has been damaged by the publication of the Pulitzer Statement because it is intended to leave the reader with the false impression that President Trump colluded with a hostile foreign government to undermine a United States presidential election, and is further intended to stoke feelings of hatred, distrust, and discouragement in the reader toward Plaintiff.”
Trump is requesting damages “in an amount to be proven at trial.”
The Pulitzer Prizes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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