Donald Trump gave the broadcaster CNN four of his “fake news” awards on Wednesday as he used the gimmick to escalate his attacks on media.
The US president singled out The New York Times twice while the broadcaster ABC and the magazines Time and Newsweek were each mentioned once.
Claims of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia – a topic which has overshadowed the presidency and is being investigated by a special counsel – was also named.
A spokesman for the party later said that the surge in traffic had crashed the website, noting it received more hits than ever before.
Details of the awards instead had to be garnered from what appeared to be an archived version of the website before it crashed.
CNN, the broadcaster that Mr Trump has repeatedly clashed with since taking office, was named in four of the 11 awards – more than any other outlet.
One was for when the broadcaster “falsely reported that candidate Donald Trump and his son Donald J. Trump, Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks.”
And the FAKE NEWS winners are…https://t.co/59G6x2f7fD
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018
Another was for when it “falsely reported about Anthony Scaramucci’s meeting with a Russian”. Mr Scaramucci was briefly in charge of White House communications.
A third was for when the broadcaster “falsely edited a video to make it appear Mr Trump defiantly overfed fish during a visit with the Japanese prime minister”.
The fourth award was for when CNN “falsely reported that former FBI Director James Comey would dispute President Trump’s claim that he was told he is not under investigation”.
The wording – which included capital letters for the words “falsely” – was constructed by the Republican Party and frames the stories in a negative light.
Reporters for the broadcaster, which has been in an escalating war of words with the president for more than a year, were rejecting his ‘fake news’ criticisms on Wednesday.
Other awards ranged from faulty predictions about the stock market under a Trump presidency to inaccurate reporting, including once instance – from ABC News – that led to a suspension for the reporter involved.
A final award was given to general coverage of the Russian election meddling scandal, which has seen four Trump campaign figures charged with crimes.
That entry read: “And last, but not least: “RUSSIA COLLUSION!” Russian collusion is perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. THERE IS NO COLLUSION!”
There was also a list of 11 “results” from a Trump presidency that the media was urged to cover more, including “historic tax cuts” and victories against the terror group Isil.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) January 18, 2018
Critics have seen the “awards” as another attempt by Mr Trump to undermine the free press and shout down broadcasters and newspapers who have broken revelations about him.
However supporters see it as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to call out inaccurate reporting and challenge a media landscape that they believe is tilted against his presidency.
Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday: “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!”
A Republican Party spokesman wrote on Twitter: “Tonight, [the Republican Party website] saw more traffic than ever before. Even though the servers were scaled up, the interest was even greater than anticipated. Traffic is off the charts. Come back soon.”
New York Times lets Trump supporters speak
The New York Times, which featured twice in the “fake news awards”, has admitted its “editorial board has been sharply critical of the Trump presidency, on grounds of policy and personal conduct”.
Therefore, “in the spirit of open debate”, it is devoting its editorial page to letters from Trump supporters on Thursday.
On Thursday, the NYT is not running any editorials in print. The ed board is devoting the page to letters from Trump supporters. Check it out https://t.co/feU41BwXNU
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 17, 2018
Mr Trump’s fake news awards are continuing to draw criticism.
10 years ago I was press secretary for @GOP. Lots of good people working there today. I’m working hard to help them elect Republicans in 2018. But these tactics by @realDonaldTrump are not helpful to anybody except Chuck & Nancy. https://t.co/utLpFaONc5
— Alex Conant (@AlexConant) January 18, 2018
However, Republican Governor Mike Huckabee has hit back at Senator Jeff Flake for his attack earlier.
Once there was Marky Mark. Now we have Flaky Flake. Comparing @realDonaldTrump to Stalin is absurd and utterly offensive. Ppl don’t despise media because @POTUS calls them fake news but when 90% coverage negative and 100% of media mistakes are AGAINST Trump that IS fake news.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) January 17, 2018
Rob Crilly has given his thoughts on Donald Trump’s latest gimmick.
Donald Trump’s fake news awards arrived with not so much a bang as the 2018 equivalent of a whimper. They arrived with an error message.
When Mr Trump dropped the tweet announcing the “winners” it offered a link to the Republican National Committee webpage which promptly crashed, leaving viewers with the message: “The site is temporarily offline, we are working to bring it back up. Please try back later.”
It is difficult to think of a more fitting metaphor for this administration.
Showman’s spectacle falls flat
With his experience in the entertainment industry, Mr Trump usually knows how to put on a show. During his time in the White House, he has turned nominee announcements into prime time spectacles.
And yet the president arguably bungled this one. The saga began in November when he suggested awarding a Fake News Trophy. That later became the Fake News Awards, but the date for the big reveal was put back a number of times.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his press secretary, gave vague statements, casting doubt on the degree to which this had been planned. And then when it came to the big announcement, the website crashed.
“On the day of the planned presentations, however, the awards still appeared to be a loosely formed idea,” the Washington Post noted.
The spoof awards have provided fodder for comedians in the US.
Late-night TV hosts swiftly dubbed the awards “The Fakeys” or “The Trumpies.”
Colbert, host of “The Late Show” on CBS, is campaigning for “Fakest Dishonesty,” “Dishonestest Corruption” and “Smallest Button” among several other made-up categories.
In the spirit of Hollywood’s movie awards season now underway, “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central took out a spoof full-page “for your consideration” ad in the New York Times, touting the programme’s qualifications.
The Daily Show is running a full page Oscar-style “For Your Consideration” ad in the New York Times today, aimed at winning President Trump’s upcoming dishonest media awards… pic.twitter.com/iVO8avtPlE
— Eamon Javers (@EamonJavers) January 5, 2018
In a tongue-in-cheek war of insults, “The Daily Show” has also run videos asking whether Colbert and comic Samantha Bee of “Full Frontal” on TBS “can really be mistrusted,” and proclaiming the satirical show’s South African-born host, Trevor Noah, “literally un-American.”
Public radio’s predominantly serious “On the Media” show last week ran spoof red-carpet coverage of “The Fakeys,” with various newspaper and TV journalists jostling for fake-news honours.
Website crashes after Trump’s tweet
There was much hype about the Fake News Awards – so much so that the website crashed when Trump tweeted a link to it.
The online failure was quickly mocked on social media.
You know what kind of website would adequately prepare for a massive influx of traffic for a highly anticipated story so it doesn’t crash?
A news website.
— Jack Jenkins (@jackmjenkins) January 18, 2018
Weird that Trump hired https://t.co/8Pfi0cOF8H people to run the Fake News awards.
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) January 18, 2018
Many of the mistakes in Mr Trump’s list prompted corrections or apologies from the media outlets – which, many are noting, is how journalism works.
Turns out Republicans/Trump confused honest mistakes that real media organizations admit to, correct, and remediate w/ fake news (i.e., the frequent stories that State Media and Trump admin just make up).
— David Rothschild (@DavMicRot) January 18, 2018
Worth nothing that most of the 11 recipients of the Fake News Awards issued corrections or faced consequences for inaccurate reporting. That's how journalism works.https://t.co/ZcLZ0pxd7i
— Mike Rosenberg (@ByRosenberg) January 18, 2018
While Flake’s combative stance was not echoed by the Republican mainstream, it was mirrored by his Arizona colleague and fellow Trump critic McCain, in an opinion piece for The Washington Post entitled “Mr. President, stop attacking the press.”
“Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy,” McCain warned.
Citing the Committee to Protect Journalists, McCain noted that 2017 was one of the most dangerous years on record for the profession, with 262 journalists jailed over their work – 21 of them on charges of “fake news.”
Trump’s attacks on media condemned
Jeff Flake, the Republican Senator from Arizona, attacked the president in an address from the Senate floor earlier on Wednesday, blasting 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.
“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.”