President Donald Trump turned to Twitter this weekend in a rage against a less than flattering Times story about his work habits and schedule. The Twitter tirade turned into a demand that New York Times reporters give back the “Nobles” for their coverage of the Russian investigation. That will be difficult for a number of reasons, including the fact that they never received Nobel prizes but Pulitzer Prize. More importantly, the courts have no role in such awards and the suggestion of litigation to force their return is completely meritless and frankly bizarre. Update: President Trump is now claiming that, like the disinfectant remarks, he was just being sacrastic.
I have previously criticized the President for these attacks on the media. I have also criticized many in the media for highly biased and inaccurate coverage. However, that is no excuse for the ongoing attacks, particularly (as was the case recently with the disinfectant story) when the media was correctly reporting on a controversy.
The President has previously demanded that Times Reporter Maggie Haberman return her Pulitzer Prize for the Russian coverage in light of recent disclosures that the investigation was based on flawed evidence and improper procedures. However, Haberman was correctly reporting that such an investigation was ongoing within the FBI. Many reporters understated the evidentiary foundation for the investigation and Trump is correct that the media never fully addressed the misrepresentations of sources that riddled these reports. The media was too eager to accept that Russian collusion allegations of such highly flawed and biased reports as the Steele dossier.
Initially President Trump was addressing what he said were false aspects in the reporting on his work and eating habits, declaring:
“I work from early in the morning until late at night, haven’t left the White House in many months (except to launch Hospital Ship Comfort) in order to take care of Trade Deals, Military Rebuilding etc., and then I read a phony story in the failing @nytimes about my work … schedule and eating habits, written by a third rate reporter who knows nothing about me. … I will often be in the Oval Office late into the night & see that I am angrily eating a hamberger & Diet Coke in my bedroom. People with me are always stunned. Anything to demean!”
“I can give the Committee a very comprehensive list. When will the Noble Committee DEMAND the Prizes back, especially since they were gotten under fraud? The reporters and Lamestream Media knew the truth all along … Lawsuits should be brought against all, including the Fake News Organizations, to rectify this terrible injustice. For all of the great lawyers out there, do we have any takers? When will the Noble Committee Act? Better be fast!”
I would hope that there would be no “takers” for such a case. Rule 11(b) states:
“REPRESENTATIONS TO THE COURT. By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper — whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it — an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:
it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;
the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a non-frivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;
the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and
the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.”
Such a filing would arguable violation all four criteria.
The President has every right to raise the accuracy of coverage of the Russian collusion stories, though during a pandemic would seem a poor time for such diversions. However, this attack show more rage than reason in calling for a lawsuit to strip Haberman and others of their Pulitzer Prizes.
Update: President Trump is now offering a defense that he was being sarcastic, again: “Does anybody get the meaning of what a so-called Noble (not Nobel) Prize is, especially as it pertains to Reporters and Journalists? Noble is defined as, ‘having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.’ Does sarcasm ever work?”