In an editorial published on Tuesday evening, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) slammed President Donald Trump for his continued attacks against the press, culminating in the “fake news awards” loosely scheduled to take place on Wednesday.
“[The president] has threatened to continue his attempt to discredit the free press by bestowing ‘fake news awards’ upon reporters and news outlets whose coverage he disagrees with,” McCain wrote in his Washington Post op-ed. “Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.”
McCain is perhaps the most outspoken of Trump’s GOP critics, and roughly a month ago, he took to Twitter to express his disgust with the president’s anti-press posturing.
.@pressfreedom's annual report shows record # of journalists imprisoned worldwide in 2017, including 21 on "fake news" charges. @POTUS must understand his harmful rhetoric only empowers repressive regimes to jail reporters & silence the truth. https://t.co/S65iPnPBsN
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) December 13, 2017
In this editorial, McCain doubled down on his argument, claiming Trump’s continued hostility towards media imperils journalists worldwide.
“Yet even more troubling is the growing number of attacks on press freedom in traditionally free and open societies,” McCain wrote, “where censorship in the name of national security is becoming more common.” He cited laws both passed and proposed that have a “chilling effect” on journalists in Britain, France and Germany, the murder of a prominent journalist in Malta and a Polish news agency that was fined for publishing photographs of anti-government protests.
The president’s “unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets” have “provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit,” with so-called “fake news” becoming a jail-worthy offense in 21 cases in 2017 alone.
“Trump’s attempts to undermine the free press also make it more difficult to hold repressive governments accountable,” the senator wrote. “For decades, dissidents and human rights advocates have relied on independent investigations into government corruption to further their fight for freedom. But constant cries of ‘fake news’ undercut this type of reporting and strip activists of one of their most powerful tools of dissent.”
“Ultimately,” McCain concluded, “freedom of information is critical for a democracy to succeed.”