Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump defended Vladimir Putin over the weekend, discounting allegations that the Russian president has been linked to the killing of journalists.
Although it is widely believed that Putin was involved in the death of at least eight journalists for criticizing him, the billionaire began defending the ex-KGB chief following an endorsement of Trump’s presidential campaign.
“I think that our country does plenty of killing, too,” Trump explained to MSNBC last week.
During an interview with ABC News on Sunday, host George Stephanopoulos asked Trump which killings by the U.S. were like the sanctioned murder of journalists.
Trump insisted that “hundreds of thousands of people” had been killed because “Hillary Clinton made some horrible decisions.”
“That’s not the same as ordering killing,” Stephanopoulos noted.
“As far as the reporters are concerned, obviously, I don’t want that to happen,” Trump said. “But in all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that. I don’t know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? Do you know the names of the reporters that he’s killed?”
“I haven’t seen any evidence that he killed anybody in terms of reporters,” he continued. “I don’t think anybody knows that. It’s possible that he does, but I don’t think it’s been proven. Has anybody proven that he’s killed reporters?”
“Yeah, sure, there are allegations. I’ve read those allegations over the years, but nobody has proven that he’s killed anybody as far as I’m concerned.”
Trump opined that Putin had not “stood with a gun or taken the blame or admitted that he’s killed.”
“He’s always denied it,” Trump observed. “It’s never been proven that he killed anybody. So you know, you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, at least in our country. He has not been proven that he’s killed reporters.”
The Republican frontrunner pointed back to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and suggested that it was equivalent to targeting reporters.
“I’m saying when you say a man has killed reporters, I’d like you to prove it,” Trump argued. “And I’m saying it would be a terrible thing if it were true. But I have never seen any information or any proof that he killed reporters.”
Watch the video below from ABC’s This Week, broadcast Dec. 30, 2015.