By Alana Abramson
January 17, 2018

Jeff Flake delivered a searing rebuke of President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press on the Senate floor Wednesday, urging the chamber to counteract his rhetoric by defending the media.

“Not only has the past year seen an American president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems he has in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language. This is reprehensible,” said the outgoing Arizona Republican senator. “We are not in a ‘fake news’ era, as Bashar Assad says. We are, rather, in an era in which the authoritarian impulse is reasserting itself, to challenge free people and free societies, everywhere.”

This was not the first time Flake has used the Senate floor to criticize the President. Last October, when he announced his decision to retire, he warned his colleagues about the “personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency”that he said were emanating from the executive branch of government, and argued the Senate needed to be a check on democracy.

This time, Flake explicitly analogized President Trump’s rhetoric on the press with that of communist Russia. “’The enemy of the people,’ was what the president of the United States called the free press in 2017. It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies,” he said. “This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party.”

Read the full speech below.

 

Write to Alana Abramson at Alana.Abramson@time.com.

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