Sen. Jeff Flake hangs the Stalin label on Trump for attacking the free press

Well, this should be fun. In planned speech, Sen. Jeff Flake compares Trump’s media attacks to comments by Stalin:

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) plans to give a speech in the coming days that compares President Trump’s public criticism of the news media to similar comments once made by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

A spokesman said that Flake, who will retire after this year amid intense political pressure sparked by his criticism of the president, plans to deliver the speech Wednesday before Trump announces the winners of his self-described “fake news” awards.

Trump announced via Twitter that he would be handing out awards Wednesday to news outlets he thought unfairly covered him.

Flake continues to be one of Trump’s most frequent critics, often speaking out to warn that the president’s words and actions could be detrimental to the future of the Republican Party and the nation’s standing worldwide.

In recent days, he was among the lawmakers who denounced Trump for describing certain African nations and Haiti as “shithole countries” during an Oval Office meeting on immigration policy. Flake has been negotiating a bipartisan deal on immigration with Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). In an interview with The Washington Post on Friday, Flake said that he was not at the meeting, but heard about Trump’s comment “before it went public. And what I’ve heard reported is consistent about what I heard about the meeting.”

“I’m not surprised at the sentiment expressed — it’s consistent with what he’s said — but that he would do that knowing the fury it would cause,” Flake added.

Flake plans to use his upcoming speech to denounce Trump for calling the news media “the enemy of the American people” last year.

In excerpts provided by his office, he is poised to blast Trump’s “unrelenting daily assault on the constitutionally-protected free press” that he will call “as unprecedented as it is unwarranted.”

“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,” Flake will say, according to the excerpts. “It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.”

Flake will add that Trump “has it precisely backward — despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy. When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him ‘fake news,’ it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.”

On MSNBC Sunday night, Flake said that in addition to Stalin, Mao Zedong, the former leader of the Chinese Communist Party, also referred to the media as the  “enemy of the people.” And he repeated his point that Khrushchev later forbade the use of the term.

“I don’t think that we should be using a phrase that’s been rejected as too loaded by a Soviet dictator,” Flake said on “Kasie DC.”

Here are the excerpts provided to The Post in advance by Flake’s office:

2017 was a year which saw the truth — objective, empirical, evidence-based truth — more battered and abused than any other in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government. It was a year which saw the White House enshrine “alternative facts” into the American lexicon, as justification for what used to be known simply as good old-fashioned falsehoods. It was the year in which an unrelenting daily assault on the constitutionally-protected free press was launched by that same White House, an assault that is as unprecedented as it is unwarranted. “The enemy of the people,” was what the president of the United States called the free press in 2017.

Mr. President, 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. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase “enemy of the people,” that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of “annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader.

This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party. For they are shameful, repulsive statements. And, of course, the president has it precisely backward — despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy. When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him “fake news,” it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.

I dare say that anyone who has the privilege and awesome responsibility to serve in this chamber knows that these reflexive slurs of “fake news” are dubious, at best. Those of us who travel overseas, especially to war zones and other troubled areas around the globe, encounter members of U.S. based media who risk their lives, and sometimes lose their lives, reporting on the truth. To dismiss their work as fake news is an affront to commitment and their sacrifice. Mr. President, a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists documents that the number of journalists imprisoned around the world has reached 262, which is a new record. This total includes 21 reporters who are being held on “false news” charges.

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12 Responses to Sen. Jeff Flake hangs the Stalin label on Trump for attacking the free press

  1. Frances Perkins

    And today slate.com said the exact same thing about Flake.

  2. Barack Obama‏Verified account
    @BarackObama

    Dr. King was 26 when the Montgomery bus boycott began. He started small, rallying others who believed their efforts mattered, pressing on through challenges and doubts to change our world for the better. A permanent inspiration for the rest of us to keep pushing towards justice.

    7:46 AM – 15 Jan 2018

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Obama’s Twitter account has 99 million followers, Trump has 47 million.

      Again, Obama’s is bigger.

      The difference between the two accounts is going to be a discussion for historians years from now.

      Obama Tweets uplifting stories of people doing good in the world and words of encouragement.

      Trump’s is all bragging, lying, complaining, and crying.

      Oh, boo hoo, the press is mean to me, oh, boo hoo, the Democrats are mean to me, oh, boo hoo, no one gives me credit for being great, Saturday Night Live makes fun of me, oh, oh, boo hoo! Hawahhhhhhhhh!

      What a snowflake.

  3. Why do I get the feeling that Flake is preparing for one of his next gigs, appearing on cable TV as a perpetual guest?

    Other than that, I don’t actually care what Jeff Flake thinks or says about anything. If he thinks he’s one of the good guys, or that he has been on the right side of history, he is sadly mistaken.

    Flake’s Trump score on Nate Silver’s 538 blog is 90.7. And, of course, Flake voted “YES” on the GOP tax bill that further concentrates wealth and explodes the deficit.

    Grandstanding won’t save your soul, Mr. Flake. You don’t stand out from the rest of your ilk with your pretense of morality and integrity. Make no mistake, you are no better than the others. If you are better than Trump you had numerous opportunities to prove it to your constituents, and you chose not to.

    Go away, Flake, just go away.

    • Senator Flake, here is Martin Luther King Jr. on income inequality and redistribution of wealth. Still relevant, especially now that the GOP has moved forward on their agenda to create more income inequality and decimate the social safety net. Happy MLK Day!

    • For Sure Not Tom

      While I appreciate Flake pretending to have morals and a backbone, no one’s buying it.

      Like Trump, he’s a con man, he’s just not as good at being a con man as Trump.

      • Truth. He’s a lesser con man, to be sure. This grandstanding gets attention because any GOP politician who says anything against Trump is getting on TV. So Flake figures he can turn this into money beginning in 2019.

        • For Sure Not Tom

          Flake denouncing Trump is like Jeffrey Dalmer denouncing Charles Manson.

          • Ha ha. Well, as I always say, put the lid on the barrel and let the rats eat.

            I think Flake is pursuing the Sarah Palin business model. Leave politics and rake in the cash from cable news appearances, perhaps leading to a regular spot and those lucrative speeches, perhaps even his own show on radio or TV.

            But Sarah had her crazy family and she was prettier back then than Jeff is now.

            But who knows? Someone will pay him, he knows that.

    • Frances Perkins

      I have been saying for years that Flake is the worst kind of hypocrite for political expediency. He continues to mouth reason and opposition to insanity while voting almost all the time for continuation of insanity. If he would have voted “no” on Gorsuch, or “no” on the tax redistribution package, or any “ no” vote of substance, he would be more believable. As it is he cannot vacuum his conscience now. Actions speak louder than words, Jeff.