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Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’ were a huge flop

President Trump announced the “2017 Fake News Awards” on Jan. 17. (Video: Patrick Martin/The Washington Post)

President Trump's “Fake News Awards” button did not work.

Trump tried via Twitter on Wednesday night to name the “losers,” but technical difficulties at caused the president's link to misfire. Would-be visitors to the website saw this:

Then this:

And then this:

In a tweet, the Republican Party attributed the problem to heavy traffic.

While the webpage was still down, Fox News reported that a column by New York Times opinion writer Paul Krugman had finished on top (bottom?) in what the president's broken link billed as the “Highly Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards.” It was an odd pick: Krugman is not a news reporter, and his column was published in 2016. He wrongly predicted that the stock market, which initially faltered after Trump's election, would never recover.

Trump's anticlimactic unveiling was a fitting end to an idea that seemed poorly executed from the get-go. Trump, former star of “The Apprentice,” knows how to put on a show, yet his “Fake News Awards” were shaping up to be a total flop even before Wednesday's website trouble.

The president said in a Jan. 7 tweet that he would name “the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media” but appeared to do little preparation for the event — if an event was ever part of the plan.

“We'll keep you guys posted,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday afternoon when asked about the awards. “It'll be something later today.”

On Tuesday, she had said, “We'll keep you posted on any details around that potential event and what that would look like.”

“Potential” event? What happened to the president's tweeted claim, nine days earlier, that “the interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated”?

Heightened interest was Trump's stated reason for pushing back the awards, which he initially said he would give out Jan. 8.

“Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media,” he tweeted early this month. “Stay tuned!”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump's “fake news awards” are just a “potential event." (Video: Reuters)

Reporters stayed tuned, but the White House offered nothing to pay attention to. At a Jan. 3 news briefing, journalists asked Sanders about the number of awards, about judges, about whether there will be a televised ceremony or a live audience.

“I certainly don't want to spoil anything,” Sanders replied. “But my guess is that there are quite a few individuals that could be up for those awards. . . . We'll certainly keep you posted. It might be hard for him to present trophies if you guys aren't there. But I don't know, we'll have to wait and see what happens.”

More and more, it looked as if Sanders wasn't trying to avoid a spoiler. Rather, it looked as if there was nothing to spoil because there was no plan.

Trump first proposed the idea of a “FAKE NEWS TROPHY” in a tweet Nov. 27. He originally envisioned picking the television network that “is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me).”

In December, Trump's reelection campaign announced a variation of this contest, asking supporters to vote on “which mainstream story in 2017 was the most deceitful, embarrassing — and most of all — FAKE!”

The campaign presented only three nominees, a rather small number, considering Trump has tweeted about “fake news” more than 150 times since taking office. One of the three — supposedly one of the absolute worst examples of fake news — was a Time magazine story that wrongly reported that Trump had removed a bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office.

Surely Trump could come up with something more outrageous than that, no? He seemed to think so, when he later said that his awards would cover not merely a single report but “various categories.” On the day of the planned presentations, however, the awards still appeared to be a loosely formed idea.