Republican Senator has called on to stop his attacks on the American press, on the eve of the President’s newly invented “Fake News Awards”.
Mr Trump announced earlier this month that he would bestow awards on the “most dishonest and corrupt media of the year,” setting off alarm bells with free-speech advocates. Now, Mr McCain has said the President’s feud with the media must end – or result in dire global consequences.
“While administration officials often condemn violence against reporters abroad, Trump continues his unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets,” Mr McCain wrote in an editorial for the Washington Post. “This has provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit.”
He added: “The phrase ‘’ – granted legitimacy by an American president – is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens.”
Mr McCain pointed to the rise in attacks on reporters internationally last year, which the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) declared one of the most dangerous years to be a journalist. A record number of journalists were jailed in 2017, and at least 44 were killed, according to the CPJ. The number of journalists jailed for reporting “fake news” worldwide also doubled.
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But Mr McCain saw repercussions of Mr Trump’s rhetoric domestically, as well.
“We cannot afford to abdicate America’s long-standing role as the defender of human rights and democratic principles throughout the world,” he wrote. “…Ultimately, freedom of information is critical for a democracy to succeed.”
Mr McCain is a frequent critic of the President, on everything from his Twitter habits to his positive views on Russia. The Republican Senator famously shot down his party’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare with a single “no” vote this summer – a move Mr Trump later lambasted him for on Twitter.
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Mr Trump has been silent on his Fake News Awards since last week, when he to this Wednesday. Asked about the awards in a press conference, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred to them as a “potential event”.
Late-night comedians, meanwhile, have run away with the idea, with NBC’s Jimmy Fallon handing out his own, mock awards on his Tuesday night broadcast. CBS’s Stephen Colbert even took out a giant billboard in Times Square to promote himself for a fake news award.
“Personally, I’m excited for the Most Dishonest and Corrupt Media Awards of the Year – or as we call them in the biz, the Fakeys,” Mr Colbert joked on Tuesday, “because nothing gives you more credibility than Donald Trump calling you a liar.”