President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have united in their dislike of fact-based news media and staged a two-pronged nearly simultaneous attack on CNN.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “Fox News is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them for their role as the world’s window.”
.@FoxNews is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 25, 2017
That same day, Putin had a similar thought, and signed amendments into law that will list foreign media outlets in Russia to be labeled “foreign agents.”
The Kremlin claimed that the move was in response to the United States forcing Russian state-TV stations RT and Sputnik to register as foreign agents of the Russian government.
Whether or not the moves were coordinated, the President of the United States attacking the free media at the same time as Russia cracks down on that same media sends a terrifying message to journalists.
“Trump’s eagerness to win the favor of autocrats remains one of the most concerning aspects of his presidency,” Republican strategist Alex Conant told The New York Times. “If the leader of the free world does not champion the free press, then who will?”
And it’s not just Russia. The day after Trump’s tweet attacking CNN, a spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs took to Twitter to attack CNN’s “deplorable” coverage of a terrorist attack in Sinai.
“As usual, deplorable @CNN coverage of Sinai tragedy today,” the account tweeted. “Anchor more interested in reporters access to Sinai than in those who lost their lives !!!”
As usual, deplorable @CNN coverage of Sinai tragedy today. Anchor more interested in reporters access to Sinai than in those who lost their lives !!!
— Egypt MFA Spokesman (@MfaEgypt) November 26, 2017
In Libya, a state television channel used Trump’s tweet to discredit CNN International’s coverage of their migrant slave market and suggested the CNN report was politically-motivated.
Ben Rhodes, who served as a foreign policy adviser to President Obama, said he wasn’t surprised to hear autocratic regimes echo Trump’s autocratic sentiments.
“Most predictable thing in the world that authoritarian governments will increasingly echo Trump’s media criticism,” Rhodes tweeted.
CNN International host Christiane Amanpour told The New York Times the tweet gives “an automatic green light” to foreign dictators who want to crack down on western media in their own countries.
“We’re used to danger,” Amanpour said. “But we don’t need to be stabbed in the back by our free and democratic leadership.”
CNN’s Brian Stelter warned that Trump’s tweet “reads like an invitation to undemocratic regimes around the world to harass CNN journalists with the blessing of the U.S. president. Is this presidential? No. Is this petty? Definitely.”
David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun agreed with Stelter and slammed Trump for not considering the repercussions of his rhetoric on journalists covering war zones.
“This guy wants to mock (CNN International), this guy who never served in the military, never got near a battlefield wants to mock CNN,” Zurawik told Stelter. “He doesn’t understand what he’s doing when he tells autocratic fascist regimes to crack down on CNN International. He does not have a sense, it’s like a 12-year-old boy talking crap in the schoolyard, and its really a disgrace to us.”
— Reliable Sources (@ReliableSources) November 26, 2017