Feb 28, 2017

Top Senate Dem: Making reporters the enemy is a "strongmen" strategy

U.S. government work via Flickr

Dick Durbin, a high-ranking member of Democratic leadership in the Senate, lit into President Trump Tuesday over his attacks on the media — comparing them to tactics used by dictators the world over:

"The kinds of attacks on the media we're seeing in America would have seemed very similar to people living in the Ukraine or the Baltics when those nations were under Soviet [rule]. And it would seem familiar today in a lot of authoritarian states like Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, Turkey and Hungary. Turning reporters into enemies — not just adversaries, but enemies — is a strategy that strongmen use to silence critics."

The details: The Illinois Democrat said that the free press was under attack from the Russian government but also from the administration. He pointed to Trump's tweet earlier this month referring to the media as the "enemy of the American people" but was also rankled by oppositional comments made about the press by top White House staffers like Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

Worth noting: Durbin says he's privately heard concerns about Trump's posture towards the press from Republicans. "They say to me things like, 'We know you're worried, we're worried too,'" he told reporters, but noted that "that's about the best I can get out of them in the Senate gym."

Key context: Durbin made the comments during a speech to local broadcasters where he said the government should maintain libel laws, support public broadcasters and pass a federal shield law to protect journalists' sources. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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