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Jeff Flake just gave a dramatic defense of the press on the Senate floor

Senator Jeff Flake spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday.Senate TV via AP

Outgoing Republican Senator Jeff Flake took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to condemn President Trump’s attacks on the press, the same day Trump was supposed to announce “fake news awards” to journalists covering his administration.

Flake, who has said he will not run for another term in office, called the president’s attacks on the press “a source of great shame” and compared Trump’s language to that of Joseph Stalin.

“It 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,” Flake said.

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“This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party. For they are shameful, repulsive statements,” he continued.

The Arizona senator, like his counterpart John McCain, has frequently criticized Trump on a variety of issues, and spent much of his October speech announcing his retirement lamenting the “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior” of the president.

Flake has also been a favorite Twitter target of Trump’s, most recently when Trump called Flake’s political career “toast.”

Flake’s speech came the same day Trump has said he would announce a series of “fake news awards” for members of the press.

In tweets over the last several weeks, Trump said the “awards” would go to “the most corrupt & biased of the mainstream media.” But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders downplayed the possibility of such an event actually occurring at a Tuesday press briefing, calling it a “potential event.”

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No such event has appeared on the president’s public schedule for Wednesday.


Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.