Sens. Flake, McCain criticize Trump’s comments about the media
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Sens. Flake, McCain criticize Trump’s comments about the media

January 17, 2018

The Raw Data

Unspun and unbiased. These are the facts.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) criticized President Donald Trump’s comments about U.S. media. Last year, Trump said the press is the “enemy of the people.” Flake said the president uses “words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies.”

He gave the speech on the day Trump had said he would give “Fake News Awards” to “the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media.” Trump wrote about the “awards” in a tweet on Wednesday night. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post on Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also criticized Trump’s treatment of the media.

In his speech, Flake said 2017 was a year in which “truth” was “more battered and abused than at any time in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government.” He said, “The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy.” Flake added that, “when a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him ‘fake news,’ it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.”

In a press briefing Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president and the White House take questions and “welcome access to the media every day.”

Sanders called Flake a “mouthpiece for the oppressive Cuban government,” saying “he’s not criticizing the president because he’s against oppression, he’s criticizing the president because he has terrible poll numbers and he is looking for some attention.” She said the senator was “recently defending an actually oppressive regime,” referencing his recent trip to Cuba. Flake visited Cuba last week to get briefed on the unexplained health issues affecting U.S. diplomats and their families. He said there was no FBI evidence that Cubans attacked the diplomats and said Cubans “bristle at the word ‘attack.’” He said he thought Cubans were “justified” since no evidence of an attack has been produced.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also tweeted about Flake’s speech, saying “turn on the news. It’s wall-to-wall biased coverage against @POTUS.” She added, “Comparing the leader of the free world to murderous dictators is absurd. You’ve gone too far.”

In McCain’s op-ed, he said “the phrase ‘fake news’ – granted legitimacy by an American president – is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens.” He also said, “Congress must commit to protecting independent journalism, preserving an open and free media environment, and defending the fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.” He said Trump’s criticism of the press is “being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.”

Sources: CNN, Fox News, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times