On Tuesday, 21 prominent scholars sent a powerful letter demanding that the Pulitzer Prize Board revoke the 2020 Prize for Commentary it had awarded to The New York Times‘ Nikole Hannah-Jones for the essay that launched “The 1619 Project.” Since the essay’s publication last year, The Times has retracted one of its central claims and then stealth-edited the project’s website to remove the claim that America’s “true founding” did not come on July 4, 1776, with the Declaration of Independence but on August 20, 1619, with the arrival of the first black slaves. Worse, Hannah-Jones proceeded to act as though she never made this claim.
The essay — entitled “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written” — falsely claimed that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” The Times issued a correction, but only after historian Leslie Harris, one of the Times‘ own fact-checkers, publicly revealed that she had flagged many such claims as false prior to publication, but the Times had not corrected them beforehand.
“The Pulitzer Prize Board erred in awarding a prize to Hannah-Jones’s profoundly flawed essay, and through it to a Project that, despite its worthy intentions, is disfigured by unfounded conjectures and patently false assertions,” wrote the 21 scholars, including Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, Hoover Institution Fellow Victor Davis Hanson, Claremont McKenna College professor Charles Kesler, and National Association of Scholars President Peter Wood.
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