Panel that awarded Pulitzers for Russiagate stories mum after scathing exposé on reporting failures

The "Russiagate" narrative, which permeated mainstream news coverage during the Trump years, was dismantled in an exhaustive four-part series in the Columbia Journalism Review by investigative reporter Jeff Gerth.

Published: January 31, 2023 10:46am

Updated: February 3, 2023 11:10pm

The panel that awarded Pulitzer Prizes to the New York Times and Washington Post for reporting related to the discredited Trump-Russia collusion narrative has gone mum as it faces new scrutiny following publication of a four-part series in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) documenting the establishment media pillars' lapses from their claimed journalistic standards. 

The 19-member Pulitzer Prize board for 2017-2018 was comprised of various journalists, professors and writers, including several current or former staff members of the New York Times or Washington Post. 

Just The News reached out to 13 members of the panel to find out if the CJR exposé had prompted second thoughts about the Russiagate prizes. Neil Brown, president of the Poynter Institute had an auto reply set, saying he was out of the office, while Steve Coll, former dean of Columbia Journalism School, had an auto-reply saying he is on sabbatical. None of the other board members replied.

In response to a request for comment on the CJR series, Pulitzer Prize Administrator Majorie Miller wrote, "Due to pending litigation regarding these matters, I am not able to comment on the story." 

After the Pulitzer board initially stood by its Russigate awards, former President Donald Trump — the central target of the narrative, which grew out of opposition research commissioned by his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton — filed a defamation lawsuit against them in December, following a request to reconsider the prizes. 

The board had reportedly agreed to conduct a review, but concluded, "No passages or headlines, contentions or assertions in any of the winning submissions were discredited by facts that emerged subsequent to the conferral of the prizes." 

The amount Trump is seeking in damages was not specified. 

"On the facts known to Defendants at the time these reviews were allegedly conducted, it would have been impossible that a single objective, thorough and independent review would have reached such a conclusion, much less two," the lawsuit read. "Defendants knew this and published the Pulitzer Statement anyway." 

Just the News did not seek comment from award staff or board members on whether the prize-winning reporting was defamatory, but only on whether it was, in retrospect, deserving of the prizes, which are highly coveted by establishment media organizations.

Just the News reached out to the New York Times and Washington Post for general comment on the CJR story and the status of their Pulitzer Prizes. The Post responded with the following statement:

"We are proud of our coverage of the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 campaign, including our stories that were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for furthering the nation's understanding of this consequential period," Vice President of Communications Shani George declared. "We approached this line of coverage with care and a great sense of responsibility. On the few occasions in which new information emerged that caused us to reexamine past reporting, we did so forthrightly." 

You can follow Nick on Twitter @NGivasDC

The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook


Unlock unlimited access

  • No Ads Within Stories
  • No Autoplay Videos
  • VIP access to exclusive Just the News newsmaker events hosted by John Solomon and his team.
  • Support the investigative reporting and honest news presentation you've come to enjoy from Just the News.
  • Just the News Spotlight

    Support Just the News