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Republicans Speak Out on Freedom of the Press After President Trump Calls Media the ‘Enemy’

February 19, 2017, 8:41 PM UTC

Republicans disagreed this weekend with President Donald Trump‘s claim that the media is the “enemy” of the American people.

Trump has repeatedly attacked what he calls the “FAKE NEWS media,” and on Friday he lashed out on Twitter, saying outlets like the New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS and CNN are the “enemy of the American People!”

Following the attacks, members of his administration and party defended the need for a free press.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday that he had no problems with the press.

“I’ve had some rather contentious times with the press. But no, the press, as far as I’m concerned are a constituency that we deal with,” Mattis said when asked about Trump’s criticism during a trip to the Middle East. “And I don’t have any issues with the press, myself.”

Arizona Sen. John McCain came out strongly against Trump’s assertion during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press.

“That’s how dictators get started,” he said of Trump’s tweet about the media. Later, McCain said a free press is “vital.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham partially echoed McCain during an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation, although he scolded the press for “acting more like an opposition party” when it comes to reporting on Trump and urged reporters to step up their game.

“The backbone of democracy is a free press and an independent judiciary, and they’re worth fighting and dying for,” Graham said. “The bottom line is America is not becoming a dictatorship.”