US President Donald Trump unveiled the winners of his much-touted “Fake News Awards” late Wednesday, hours after a maverick senator from the president’s own Republican Party accused him of employing Stalinist language to “slur” and undermine the free press.
Arizona lawmaker Jeff Flake levelled the broadside in an address from the Senate floor earlier in the day, delivering a one-two punch after veteran Republican John McCain penned an op-ed assailing Trump’s spoof awards.
The brash Republican president announced his top-ten list, which included his regular targets CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post, using his preferred medium of Twitter, linking to a list published on the Republican Party’s website that crashed minutes after his big reveal.
Flake slammed what he called the president’s dangerous disregard for the truth, and his designation of the mainstream news media as an “enemy of the people.”
“Mr President, 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,” said the senator, an outspoken Trump critic who is not seeking re-election this year.
“When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that does not suit him ‘fake news,’ it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.”
Turning the tables on the president, Flake accused him of leading an “unrelenting daily assault” on the free press, even as his White House coined the term “alternative facts” – “as justification for what used to be called old fashioned falsehoods.”
“2017 was a year which saw the truth – objective, empirical, evidence-based truth – more battered and abused than any time in the history of our country, at the hands of the biggest figure in our government,” Flake charged.
Of the “awards” Flake had said “it is beggars belief that an American president would engage in such a spectacle yet here we are,” – and urged his fellow lawmakers to take a stand in support of the press.
At loggerheads with much of the US news media since his election, Trump finally doled out his “Fake News Awards” after weeks of speculation, recognising what he had called “the most corrupt and biased of the mainstream media.”
Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman, who writes a regular opinion column – not news articles – for The New York Times, nabbed the number one spot.
The administration said he merited the award for writing “on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover.”
Following the former reality star’s stunning rise to power, Krugman had written that Trump’s inexperience on economic policy and unpredictability risked further damaging the weak global economy.
The list also pointed to an error from ABC’s veteran reporter Brian Ross, who was suspended for four weeks without pay after he was forced to correct a bombshell report on ex-Trump aide Michael Flynn.
In follow-up tweets to his “Fake News” announcement, the commander-in-chief posted that “despite some very corrupt and dishonest media coverage, there are many great reporters I respect and lots of good news for the American people to be proud of!”
“Together, there is nothing we cannot overcome – even a very biased media. We are making America great again!”