In his first extensive interview since President Donald Trump‘s inauguration, former President George W. Bush spoke out against the current commander in chief’s war on the media during an interview on the Today show on Monday, February 27.
Reflecting on his own controversial tenure in the White House, Bush told Today coanchor Matt Lauer that he, at the time, considered a free press to be “indispensable to democracy.” Lauer then asked Bush, 70, to share his take on Trump, 70, calling the press the “enemy of the people.”
The former politician replied, “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power.”
Noting that he previously tried to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to embrace a free press, Bush added, “It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves.”
Bush, who served as the 43rd POTUS from 2001 to 2009, was also asked about the current divisive political climate. “The job [of president] is a tough job,” he admitted on the NBC morning show. “Everybody looks at the president to see when they campaign one way, then they get in office and find out there’s a reality to the job. … It requires a lot of people coming together to make us united.”
“It’s hard to unify the country, though, with the news media being so split up. When I was president, you mattered a lot more,” the former governor of Texas said, pointing to Lauer, 59. “And now there’s all kinds of information being bombarded out and people can say things anonymously.”
Bush’s comments come on the heels of growing tensions between Trump’s administration and the press. CNN, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times were among several major news outlets that were blocked from attending White House press secretary Sean Spicer‘s press briefing last week, though journalists from conservative outlets such as Breitbart News and Fox News were invited inside. A day later, the former Celebrity Apprentice star announced on Twitter that he will not attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April.
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