WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump called for the Pulitzer Board to revoke the prizes awarded to The New York Times and The Washington Post for coverage of Russian interference in the 2016 election and the links between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
"So funny that The New York Times & The Washington Post got a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage (100% NEGATIVE and FAKE!) of Collusion with Russia - And there was No Collusion! So, they were either duped or corrupt?" the president wrote on Twitter on Friday. "In any event, their prizes should be taken away by the Committee!"
The sentiment has been a talking point for Republicans since Attorney General William Barr said special counsel Robert Mueller did not find a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, but it was the first time the president suggested that the media outlets have their Pulitzers – one of journalism's highest honors – stripped away.
The awards were given in 2018 for what the Pulitzer Board described as "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."
Pulitzer Prize Administrator Dana Canedy said in a statement to USA TODAY that Trump's tweet was "fake marketing."
"This criticism is fake marketing. We stand behind the Pulitzer selection process, which has endured for 103 years. And the winning work speaks for itself," she said. "Beyond that, this simply doesn’t deserve comment. I’m focusing on our exciting upcoming 103rd awards announcement and invite everyone to tune in to the livestream on Monday April 15th at 3 p.m. on Pulitzer.org."
In a statement, The New York Times said the outlet's coverage stands and Barr's four-page letter summarizing the investigation only confirmed the work of its reporters.
"No report in our package of Pulitzer-prize winning work has been challenged," said Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the company. "In fact, what we know of the Mueller report from the Attorney General’s summary confirms our coverage. Russia actively worked to upend the American elections in 2016 and there were multiple instances of Trump Transition and Administration officials having contact with Russia."
The Washington Post, through a spokeswoman, said it did not plan on commenting on the president's tweet.
Throughout Mueller's investigation, dozens of individuals were charged, including members of Trump's inner circle, his campaign and his administration.
But no charges were filed specifically alleging a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to help him win the 2016 election, though Mueller and U.S. intelligence officials has concluded that the Kremlin was behind a massive campaign to interfere and influence the outcome of the election.
Mueller found, according to Barr's letter to members of Congress, that the Trump campaign did not conspire or coordinate with Russia "despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign."
Barr said Mueller declined to reach a conclusion on whether the president sought to obstruct the investigation, though Barr said his own judgment was that Trump had not.
Barr's letter included very little from Mueller's nearly 400-page report. The full report is expected to be released publicly in mid-April, Barr told Congress on Friday.
The award-winning work by the Times and Post chronicles issues and warnings about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn before he was charged as part of Mueller's investigation and Jared Kushner's Russian links.
Other stories revealed a meeting between top Trump campaign officials, including the president's eldest son, with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower before the election and conduct by the president that led to questions over whether he may have attempted to obstruct the investigation, including asking former FBI Director James Comey to let go of an investigation into Flynn.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump: Pulitzers awarded to NYT, Washington Post should be revoked for 'fake' Russia coverage