Flake Says Trump's Fake News Claims as Damaging as Stalin's WereBy
President ‘reflexively’ brands press as enemy, lawmaker says
GOP Arizona senator plans to deliver floor speech this week
Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake plans to compare President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the media to those made by Joseph Stalin, the infamous dictator of the former Soviet Union, in a speech this week.
“When you reflexively refer to the press as the enemy of the people or fake news, that has real damage,” Flake said Sunday in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
“And then now, today, you have authoritarians across the world using the term ‘fake news’ to justify cracking down on their opposition or -- or stanch legitimate debate,” Flake said. “That’s nothing we should be proud of.”
Flake said he’ll expand on the Trump-Stalin comparison during a speech on the Senate floor, probably on Jan. 17. That’s the same day that Trump announced he’ll give out awards to media outlets he claims are producing “fake news.”
“The Fake News Awards, those going to the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media, will be presented to the losers” on Jan. 17, Trump said in a Jan. 7 Twitter message. “The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!”
The president has repeatedly railed against what he says is fake news. In February, he called the media “enemy of the people” in a tweet.
Forbade by Khrushchev
“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” Trump wrote.
“It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even (later Soviet leader) Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin to for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader,” Flake will say in his Senate speech, according to NBC News, citing excerpts provided.
In addition to his regular claims of “fake news,” Trump attempted this month -- through a cease-and-desist order sent by an attorney -- to halt publication of a book critical of him and his administration, Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
Flake has been a vocal critic of the president in recent months. The first-term senator announced in October that he won’t seek re-election in 2018. In November, Trump tweeted that Flake, whom he called “Flake(y),” was “unelectable” and had quit the race amid “anemic polls.”
In response to Trump’s planned awards, the Committee to Project Journalists, a nonprofit organization that promotes press freedoms worldwide, announced a “Press Oppressors” awards list on Jan. 8. The president was named as a winner along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and others.