Sam Donaldson: History shows 'would-be tyrants always attempt to destroy a free press'

Sam Donaldson: History shows 'would-be tyrants always attempt to destroy a free press'

Former longtime ABC News White House correspondent Sam DonaldsonSamuel (Sam) Andrew DonaldsonTrump: Cokie Roberts 'never treated me nicely' but 'was a professional' Journalists, political heavyweights pay respects to Cokie Roberts: 'A pioneer for so many' Longtime journalist Cokie Roberts dies at age 75 MORE on Tuesday denounced President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE's "wholesale attack" on the press, saying that history shows "would-be tyrants" invariably try to quash the media. 

"Trump's wholesale attack on the mainstream press is wrong, and it is dangerous," Donaldson, a longtime reporter and news anchor, wrote in a CNN op-ed. "History shows that tyrants and would-be tyrants always attempt to destroy a free press. And that is why the First Amendment to our Constitution specifically forbids government from interfering with the work of the press."

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Donaldson went on to note that almost every president he covered during his 52 years as a journalist "fundamentally understood and accepted the important role of the press." The one exception, he said, was former President Nixon. 

"Compared to what I see today, my time covering Presidents and their press secretaries was a cakewalk," he wrote. 
 
Donaldson has repeatedly weighed in on matters related to the current relationship between the White House and the press. He said in April that he's never seen a White House press secretary act the way Sarah HuckabeeSarah Elizabeth SandersBill Press: Mulvaney proves need for daily briefings White House correspondent April Ryan to moderate fundraising event for Buttigieg White House press secretary defends lack of daily briefings: Trump 'is the most accessible president in history' MORE Sanders has, saying that she deserves a "lifetime achievement Oscar for lying."

"I’ve had the pleasure of working with almost every press secretary beginning with Pierre Salinger in the John F. Kennedy administration. And except for [former press secretary] Ron Ziegler, who lied for Richard Nixon, I’ve never seen anything like this with Sarah SandersSarah Elizabeth SandersBill Press: Mulvaney proves need for daily briefings White House correspondent April Ryan to moderate fundraising event for Buttigieg White House press secretary defends lack of daily briefings: Trump 'is the most accessible president in history' MORE," Donaldson said while speaking on CNN

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Donaldson argued at the time that Sanders's behavior was worse than Ziegler's because Ziegler only lied about whether Nixon tried to cover up the burglary at the Watergate hotel. 

"But if you asked him a question about foreign policy, domestic policy, he would try to say what he thought the facts were, and it would often be truthful," he said. "Sarah Sanders simply lies about everything, taking a cue from her boss."

"She deserves a lifetime achievement Oscar for lying," Donaldson continued. "I don’t know her. I feel a little sorry for her. It’s the boss who does it. She takes the cue from him." 

Sanders has faced increased scrutiny since special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE's report disclosed that she misled reporters about former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThere are poor ideas, bad ones and Facebook's Libra Trump has considered firing official who reported whistleblower complaint to Congress: report Broadcast, cable news networks to preempt regular programming for Trump impeachment coverage MORE's firing. Sanders had said in May 2017 that "countless" FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey before his dismissal. 

She told investigators she made false statements about the dismissal, attributing them to a "slip of the tongue," according to Mueller's report. 

“I acknowledge that I had a slip of the tongue when I used the word ‘countless’ but it’s not untrue … that a number of both current and former FBI agents agreed with the president,”  Sanders told Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityBiden town hall on CNN finishes third in cable news race Top diplomat says Giuliani's 'campaign of lies' took down veteran ambassador Hannity slams Fox News polling on radio show MORE on the day of the report's release. 

Sanders has been part of President Trump's administration since its first day and has served as press secretary since July 2017. 

-Updated at 3:33 p.m.