Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich called out Sen. Jeff Flake’s Wednesday speech comparing President Donald Trump’s treatment of the news media to that of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, noting that the Arizona Republican’s remarks were “completely over the line.”
With former Obama State Department spokesperson Marie Harf sitting right next to her, Pavlich also pointed out Thursday that unlike during the previous administration, Trump has not used the instruments of the government to target members of the media.
Flake, in his address from the Senate floor, stated, “(I)t is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph 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,” the Arizona senator added.
“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,” Flake contended.
Appearing Thursday on FNC’s “Outnumbered,” Weekly Standard Editor in Chief Stephen Hayes said Flake’s beliefs about Trump’s rhetoric toward the media is sincerely held and valid at times. However, it is the prerogative of the White House to push back against erroneous or misleading stories.
In other words, the president should seek to correct “fake news.”
“It’s long past time for conservatives to stand up to the mainstream media, to the establishment media and challenge them,” said Hayes, arguing the George W. Bush White House did not do so nearly enough.
Pavlich responded by saying the president and his team would be more effective in countering fake news if they were more careful to distinguish between reporting they do not agree with and that which is truly in error.
“That being said,” she continued, “I think Jeff Flake’s speech is completely over the line. This president hasn’t issued any kind of decree that is official with the government to go after the press.”
“As far as we know, the Justice Department isn’t listening in on phone calls or watching reporters in what their movements are between government agencies as they tap in and tap out,” the conservative commentator stated.
Pavlich was referring to when the Obama administration’s Justice Department tracked Fox News reporter James Rosen’s visits to the State Department and obtained a search warrant in 2010 to access his personal emails.
The Obama DOJ also secretly gathered two months worth of phone records of reporters and editors at The Associated Press in 2012.
AP CEO Gary Pruitt called that a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather news. The records revealed news-gathering operations involving confidential sources and other methods “that the government has no conceivable right to know,” he added.
Harf did not respond to Pavlich’s dig at the Obama administration, but instead came to Flake’s defense.
“You’re allowed to do things publicly for good reasons, and I think that’s what he’s doing here,” Harf said of Flake’s Senate speech.
“I think he’s been bothered that other Republicans … (are) not willing to stand up (to Trump),” she added.
Pavlich responded, “If you want to have serious conversation, you can’t compare President Trump to Joseph Stalin. It ends the conservation immediately.”
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