John McCain rebukes Trump’s criticism of the press: ‘That’s how dictators get started’

The Arizona Senator argued for the importance of a free, sometimes adversarial, press.

CREDIT: Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP
CREDIT: Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP

Arizona Senator John McCain (R) warned against President Donald Trump’s distrust of the free press on Saturday, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd that suppressing the press is “how dictators get started.”

Todd had asked McCain to respond to a tweet posted by Trump on Friday night, which referred to the media as “the enemy of the American People.”

“Do you believe the press is the enemy?” Todd asked. “Do you believe any group of Americans are the enemy of another group of Americans?”

“I was talking about the period, as you know, the new world order. A fundamental part of that new world order was a free press,” McCain answered.

“I hate the press. I hate you, especially,” he continued. “But the fact is,we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital. If you want to preserve — I am very serious now. If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free, and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

McCain was quick to note that he was not accusing Trump of being a dictator, but urged people to remember “lessons of history” that show authoritarians cracking down on the press.

“When you look at history the first thing dictators do is shut down the press,” he said. “I am not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I am just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

McCain has been a vocal critic of Trump, especially regarding his foreign policy approach. In a speech to the Munich Security Conference on Friday, McCain talked about the establishment of a world order after World War II that established the United States as a protector of democracy in the Western world. He said that there is now a sense that people in the United States are “giving up on the West,” an allusion to Trump’s disinterest in continuing traditional NATO alliances.

Despite his criticism of Trump, McCain has voted 94 percent of the time in line with Trump’s positions, according to analysis by FiveThirtyEight. McCain has voted to approve all of Trump’s cabinet nominees except for Mick Mulvaney as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). He did not vote for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt because he was out of the country when the vote took place.