Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said Sunday he would compare President Trump to Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin when it comes to press freedom in a series of speeches he plans to make this week.
Flake argued that Trump was using the same tactics that Stalin did to de-legitimize the press.
“When you reflexively refer to the press as the ‘enemy of the people’ or ‘fake news,’ that has real damage. It has real damage to our standing in the world. And I noted how — how bad it is for a president to take [the phrase that] was popularized by Joseph Stalin, ‘the enemy of the people,’ to refer to the press,” Flake, one of Trump’s most persistent Republican critics, told ABC News Sunday.
In an excerpt of the planned speech, Flake said, “It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people’ that even Nikita Khrushchev [Stalin’s successor as leader of the Soviet Union] forbade its use. And of course, the president has it precisely backward. Despotism is the enemy of the people, the free press is the despot’s enemy.”
Trump has repeatedly sparred with news organizations since he entered the 2016 election and has kept up the attacks since taking office. On Sunday, he attacked the Wall Street Journal, claiming it twisted his words regarding North Korea during an interview Thursday.
“The Wall Street Journal stated falsely that I said to them ‘I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un’ (of N. Korea). Obviously I didn’t say that. I said ‘I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,’ a big difference. Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters…’ Audio excerpts of the interview do appear to indicate that Trump said “I’d” and not “I.” The president did not explain exactly how this was a big difference.
Flake weighed in on another media controversy regarding Trump, whether he used the term “shithole” to describe Haiti and African countries during a closed-door meeting Senate lawmakers regarding immigration.
Trump and some Republicans present at the confab have disputed that he used that word. Flake was not present at the meeting, but said he had talked to Senate colleagues who were.
“All I can say is I was in a meeting directly afterwards where those who had presented the president our proposal spoke about the meeting. And they said those words were used before those words went public,” Flake said.
This post originally appeared on Washington Examiner