By Nikita Vladimirov - 02-18-17 15:16 PM EST
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Saturday defended the free press following criticism by President Trump, warning that a suppression of an "adversarial" press can lead to a dictatorial regime.
When asked about the president's tweet from Friday that accused the media of being the "enemy of the American people," McCain took the opportunity to underscore the importance of free press in the modern era.
"A fundamental part of that new world order was a free press. I hate the press, I hate you especially, but the fact is we need you, we need a free press," McCain told Chuck Todd in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"That's how dictators get started," he added later. "They get started by suppressing free press, in other words, a consolidation of power."
"I am not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I am just saying we need to learn the lessons of history," he said, warning about any attempts to "shut down" the press.
Trump ratcheted up his attacks on media this week, referring to "fake news media" as "the enemy of the American people."
"The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!" he tweeted.
- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
The tweet came a day after Trump slammed various news organizations during a freewheeling press conference at the White House, where he dismissed reporting on turmoil in his administration and insisted his administration was operating as a "fine-tuned machine."
During his interview, McCain argued that free press is vital for a functioning democracy and the preservation of individual liberties.
"If you want to preserve, I am very serious now ... democracy as we know it, you have to have a free -- and many times adversarial -- press. And without it, I am afraid, that we would loose so much of our individual liberties over time."