President Trump didn't say exactly why he postponed his "Fake News Awards” to Jan. 17 from Jan. 8, other than suggesting the made-up competition had become, well, yuuuuge.
“The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!” he tweeted Jan. 7, hours before the Golden Globes.
Perhaps he feared that proximity to the Globes would snatch his thunder (true, in retrospect, given Oprah Winfrey's headline-grabbing speech). Or perhaps Trump took the comedic lobbying for the awards by the likes of Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah as unintended encouragement to further feed the hype machine.
In any case, the world leader who recently touted himself as a "very stable genius" exhibits a formidable knack for showmanship that thrives on unpredictability.
It’s a lesson constantly reinforced nearly one year in the presidency of a man who went from a Reality TV character to overseeing the greatest show on Earth.
Still, Trump’s latest circus act can't mask the disruptive intent of "awards" targeting “the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media.” He vies to stoke distrust of journalistic watchdogs via a seemingly ceaseless barrage of criticism and Orwellian language games in which reports he doesn't like are deemed "fake."
Trump frequently employs entertainment world bluster in governing. The month he took office, he built “Apprentice”-style suspense by summoning U.S. Supreme Court hopefuls Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman to Washington before announcing Gorsuch as his choice on live television.
Some of Trump’s his recent actions and statements could be seen as promotion for his awards show stunt. Cases in point include his bid to stop publication of Michael Wolff’s unflattering book, “Fire and Fury,” and the President’s recent vow to “take a strong look” at “sham” libel law protections for journalists – a First Amendment issue over which the White House has no direct control.
Meanwhile, Trump unexpectedly let cameras into immigration talks last Tuesday and into a Cabinet meeting the next day, welcoming reporters "back to the studio." He claimed, without evidence, that after the immigration session news anchors “sent us letters saying that was one of the greatest meetings they’ve ever witnessed.”
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The hyperbole and worse smack of deflection game by an embattled president who once courted the entertainment and news media that helped fuel his rise to power.
Now journalists rank high among Trump’s scapegoats, along with human beings from Haiti and Africa whose home countries the President reportedly denigrated.
It’s unclear exactly what we can expect from an awards show put on by a man who griped about never getting an Emmy, but once won a Worst Supporting Actor Razzie for his cameo in Bo Derek’s “Ghosts Can’t Do It.”
But in a twist on Trumps’ perversion of the language, it’s a good bet the “winners” will include those doing strong work during one of the most challenging times for journalists in U.S. history.
Not everyone will see it that way, though, as reporters and news organizations get dragged through the cesspool of another phony Trump show.
Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.