In a fiery speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) compared President Donald Trump’s ongoing attacks on the media to the actions of dictators, including Joseph Stalin, Bashar al-Assad, and Rodrigo Duterte, and called on his colleagues to safeguard the freedom of the press.
“The ‘enemy of the people’ was how the president of the United States called the free press in 2017,” Flake said. “Mr. President, 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.”
The remarks came ahead of a planned White House event, dubbed the “Fake News Awards” by the president, that was slated to take place later on Wednesday. Trump appeared to relish the idea of highlighting news coverage he dislikes, much to the ridicule of critics and late-night television hosts. But as of Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders could not confirm whether the awards ceremony was actually going to happen.
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
“Now we are told via Twitter that today the president intends to announce his choice for the most corrupt and dishonest media awards,” Flake continued. “It beggars belief that an American president would engage in such a spectacle, but here we are.”
While the outgoing senator, who announced in October that he would not seek another term, has positioned himself as one of Trump’s most vocal Republican critics, Flake has continually voted in line with Trump on key legislative items, such as the Republican tax reform bill.