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 DonaldsonMSNBC's Nicolle Wallace says she'll 'gladly' vote for Sanders Former colleague Brit Hume on Sam Donaldson's Bloomberg endorsement: 'Never thought I'd see this' Sam Donaldson pens op-ed endorsing Bloomberg for president MORE on Tuesday denounced President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol 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."

ADVERTISEMENT

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 SandersTrump expected to resume rallies in June Andrew Giuliani planning run for New York governor Trump appears at Sarah Huckabee Sanders campaign event 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 SandersTrump expected to resume rallies in June Andrew Giuliani planning run for New York governor Trump appears at Sarah Huckabee Sanders campaign event MORE," Donaldson said while speaking on CNN

ADVERTISEMENT
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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's report disclosed that she misled reporters about former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGiuliani told investigators it was OK to 'throw a fake' during campaign DOJ watchdog unable to determine if FBI fed Giuliani information ahead of 2016 election Biden sister has book deal, set to publish in April 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 Hannity90 percent of full-time Fox Corp. employees say they're fully vaccinated: executive The Memo: California recall exposes the limit of Trump's GOP Republicans divided on Trump's strength as possible 2024 candidate 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.