It is no secret that President Trump and the media have an antagonistic relationship. According to PBS News Hour, “In President Trump’s first year in office, he tweeted about fake news and fake media 174 times. That is an average of once every two days.” And now the President has published his “fake news awards,”–a list of what he believes to be the top 11 fake news stories of 2017.
In November, the President floated the idea for a fake news award in a tweet, saying, “We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me). They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!” Five weeks later, the president tweeted, “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5:00 o’clock. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!”
Not surprisingly, these tweets ignited a firestorm of controversy on social media along with derisive news reports and late night comedy routines. Comedians Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, and Samantha Bee published advertisements nominating themselves for the award. Stephen Colbert purchased a “for your consideration” billboard advertisement in Times Square suggesting himself for nine categories, including “Outstanding achievement in parroting George Soros’ talking points,” “Fakest Dishonesty,” and “Dishonestest Corruption.”,  And comedian Jimmy Kimmel referred to the awards as “The Stupid People’s Choice Awards.”
In anticipation of the fake news awards which were rescheduled for January 17, comedian Jimmy Fallon ridiculed the upcoming ceremony by imagining what it might look like, and Stephen Colbert presented “the even fakier awards that President Trump has awarded himself.”,  Likewise, following the president’s announcements, Jimmy Kimmel featured his father as a fake Wolf Blitzer to accept a fake, fake news award on behalf of CNN. But late night comedians and liberal pundits weren’t the only ones deriding the president’s actions.
The day before the president’s announcements, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) wrote in a Washington Post editorial, “[President Trump] has threatened to continue his attempt to discredit the free press by bestowing ‘fake news awards’ upon reporters and news outlets whose coverage he disagrees with. 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.” Similarly, during a speech on the Senate floor, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) argued that by questioning the validity of news reports, the president is undermining democracy itself. He also said:
2017 was a year which saw the truth – objective, empirical, evidence-based truth – more battered and abused than any other in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government. … It was the year in which an unrelenting daily assault on the Constitutionally-protected free press was launched by that same White House, an assault that is as unprecedented as it is unwarranted. “The enemy of the people” was how the president of the United States called the free press in 2017. 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. It bears note 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. … When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him “fake news,” it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.
Despite Senator Flake’s words, President Trump’s fake news awards were not focused on restricting the freedom of the press. Instead, the president expressed his views on the subject during a press conference shortly after assuming office, “The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people.”,  He also told the press, “I don’t mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it’s true. And, you know, over a course of time, I’ll make mistakes, and you’ll write badly, and I’m OK with that. But I’m not OK when it is fake. I mean, I watch CNN—it’s so much anger and hatred, and just the hatred. I don’t watch it anymore … Again, I don’t mind bad stories when it’s true.”
In the face of overwhelming ridicule, President Trump has endeavored to highlight for the American people how bias and political agendas have resulted in numerous “dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted” news reports by our nation’s most trusted guardians of the truth. To accomplish this, the President did not present the awards with a speech or any pageantry that might distract from this objective. Instead, he simply published an article featuring media claims juxtaposed against photographs, tweets, and videos that directly refute the reports. And this was prefaced only by the statement, “2017 was a year of unrelenting bias, unfair news coverage, and even downright fake news. Studies have shown that over 90% of the media’s coverage of President Trump is negative. Below are the winners of the 2017 Fake News Awards.”
Before we as a nation can demand change, we must first understand what is wrong. Through an unprecedented move, President Trump is endeavoring to lead our nation into an understanding of how broken and dishonest our news outlets have become—not for the purpose of suppressing free speech, but for the purpose of restoring what has been lost. This is crucial for the success of our nation because a government by the people requires a population who knows the truth. More importantly, it is important for the success of our nation because Jeremiah 9:1–9 teaches that a culture of lies can invoke God’s judgment upon a nation.
It is easy to mock the president and to shift the focus to his deficiencies, but this only enables our nation to continue to ignore the reality that we have increasingly embraced a culture of lies. This is evidenced by how far our guardians of truth—journalists and news reporters—have fallen from their commitment to objectively reporting the facts. Perhaps, through the president’s antics, God is granting our nation an opportunity to look in the mirror and resolve to self-correct before God is compelled to intervene. Perhaps this is an opportunity for us as citizens to demand truth from our respected institutions.
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