There's a new standard in Donald Trump's State Department for delivering journalism awards to foreign reporters: They must not under any circumstances have said anything even remotely unflattering about Dear Leader.
Sure they may have made incredible contributions to democracy, brought down crime rings, and even reported under harrowing circumstance. But one social media misstep involving the orange menace and it's all over.
That's what happened to Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro, who had been selected for the State Department’s International Women of Courage Awards for her prescient reporting on the spread of Russian propaganda since as early as 2014. Amid that reporting, Aro received death threats, suffered cyberattacks, and uncovered some Russian troll factories, according to The Washington Post.
For that, the State Department offered her the award and even started to talk about transportation to the states to receive it. Then some agency interns started digging into Aro's social media posts and discovered that not everything she said about Trump was sheer flattery. Gasp!
The chain of events was disclosed in a recently released Inspector General report, which cited several of her Twitter posts as the agency's cause for rescinding the award.
“Trump constantly labels journalists as ‘enemy’ and ‘fake news,’” Aro wrote in one tweet. Horrors. At one point she also celebrated the fact that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would both be meeting in Helsinki during the 2018 G7 summit. "Finnish people can protest them both. Sweet," Aro tweeted.
I mean, this is some truly abrasive stuff. State Department officials reportedly worried that Aro's posts could result in "potential embarrassment" during coverage of the award ceremony, which would include both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and first lady Melania Trump.
But wait, there's more. After the agency reneged and the entire episode was covered by Foreign Policy magazine, State Department spokespeople lied about it, saying Aro had not actually been selected but rather was "incorrectly notified."
"This was an error," they said. The department also lied to Congress, saying Aro “ultimately was not selected to receive the award."
According to the IG, however, Aro had been selected and ultimately signed off on by Pompeo himself in a memo uncovered by the investigation. In fact, the report stated that "every person" interviewed on the matter said that, save the discovery of her social media posts, “Ms. Aro would have received the IWOC Award."
Not on snowflake Trump's watch, where repeating back the words he actually says is a disqualifying action for a journalist.
“I feel like an international woman of courage,” Aro told the Post. “That, the Trump administration can’t take away from me.”