Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) condemned President Donald Trump in a Washington Post op-ed on Tuesday for his attacks on the press, prompting a swift pushback from the president’s most ardent supporters online.
In the op-ed, McCain criticized Trump’s “fake news awards” that are scheduled to be announced on Wednesday as a threat to global press freedom.
“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 wrote.
McCain said press freedom was under attack across the globe, citing statistics from the Committee to Protect Journalists, which showed 262 cases of journalists being imprisoned for reporting, making it one of the most dangerous years for journalists ever.
In the United States, Trump has continuously attacked “fake news” (media the president deems unfair or negative), and even went so far to call the press “enemy of the American people.” In recent months, reporters have been body-slammed by a congressional candidate, arrested for asking questions, pinned against a wall, and even had government officials joke about shooting them.
“We cannot afford to abdicate America’s long-standing role as the defender of human rights and democratic principles throughout the world,” McCain wrote. “Without strong leadership in the White House, Congress must commit to protecting independent journalism, preserving an open and free media environment, and defending the fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
McCain’s op-ed came out shortly after a study by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that four in 10 Republicans think the definition of “fake news” should be expanded to include accurate, but negative, stories about leaders or groups.
The Arizona senator’s passionate defense of the press seemed to enrage Trump’s supporters online.
Mark Levin, the hyper-conservative radio show host, called McCain’s op-ed “absurd” and “self-promoting.”
Similarly, Laura Ingraham, the far-right Fox News and radio show host, said the op-ed was the “real reason why the press and Dems love” McCain.
Other conservative Twitter users also weren’t pleased with the op-ed.
All i can say is WOW!!! John McCain a man that I used to think highly of. You tell the President to stop attacking the press. Is that a joke? Why don't you tell the press to stop attacking the President. Maybe you are the joke John. https://t.co/lZ8rasSEPC— We The People Want (@theUSpeopleWant) January 17, 2018
You can read all of McCain’s op-ed here.