Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who is set to retire, propelled a passionate attack on President Donald Trump Wednesday over Trump’s critiques of the mainstream media — saying that the president pushes “pernicious fantasies,” uses Stalinist rhetoric and causes global uncertainty by weakening the free press.
This isn’t the first time the outgoing Senator has taken to the Senate floor to bash the sitting president. In October, just after announcing that he will not seek re-election, Flake said:
This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because to have a healthy government we must have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that days comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders says Sen. Flake was being “petty." Just minutes ago, he said he saw his criticism as a "duty of conscience." pic.twitter.com/c8SzmZ3ZxD
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) October 24, 2017
Flake continued Wednesday from the Senate floor:
“An American president who cannot take criticism, who must constantly deflect and distort and distract, who must find someone else to blame is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the president adds to the danger,” Senator Flake said.
He also criticized President Trump for describing the press as “the enemy of the people,” a phrase he said was used by mass-murdering Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
“It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies,” he said.
Flake’s remarks, made on the Senate floor, came as Trump was set to hold what he had described as the “Fake News Awards” for members of the media he believes are “corrupt and biased.”
In his remarks, Flake frequently warned of the danger of despotism, which he said was the real “enemy of the people” and he reminded the Senate: “the free press is the despot’s enemy.”
The Fake News Awards, those going to the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media, will be presented to the losers on Wednesday, January 17th, rather than this coming Monday. The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2018
“The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy,” he said. “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.”
He criticized President Trump not only for his attacks on the media, which he claimed had given encouragement to dictators in Syria and the Philippines to undermine the press, but also for his own promotion of dubious stories.
“Not only has the past year seen a president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems that he has now, in turn, inspired authoritarians and dictators with his own language,” he said.
Flake slams Trump: We are not in a fake news era | https://t.co/FibDaGMWP3
— Project Republic (@ProjectRepToday) January 17, 2018
In particular, Flake mentioned what he called Trump’s “pernicious fantasies about rigged elections and voter fraud, which are as destructive as they are inaccurate.”
‘It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies.’
Flake has been one of the more candid critics of Trump among GOP lawmakers and in October attacked his fellow Republicans for their “complicity” in what Trump is doing. In that speech, he announced that he would not be seeking re-election in 2018.
Senator Flake was supported in his remarks by fellow Arizona Sen. John McCain who, in an editorial in The Washington Post, urged the president to stop attacking the press.
“Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are 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,” McCain wrote.
However, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel attacked Flake, saying that he’d gone “too far” in his objection of the president, and that Trump had a right to scrutinize coverage that was biased against him.
“Sen. Flake, turn on the news. It’s wall-to-wall with biased coverage against @POTUS. He has every right to push back. Comparing the leader of the free world to murderous dictators is absurd,” she tweeted. “You’ve gone too far.”
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