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 DonaldsonSam Donaldson: History shows 'would-be tyrants always attempt to destroy a free press' Sam Donaldson slams Sarah Sanders: 'She's had a lifetime achievement Oscar for lying' MORE on Tuesday denounced President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer Joint Chiefs chairman: 'The last thing in the world we need right now is a war with Iran' Pence: 'We're not convinced' downing of drone was 'authorized at the highest levels' Trump: Bolton would take on the whole world at one time 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 SandersApril Ryan on 'farewell drinks' for Sarah Sanders: 'I won't be there!' Huckabee downplays daughter Sarah Sanders's 'imminent' run for Arkansas governor Time magazine: Trump threatened reporter with prison time 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 SandersApril Ryan on 'farewell drinks' for Sarah Sanders: 'I won't be there!' Huckabee downplays daughter Sarah Sanders's 'imminent' run for Arkansas governor Time magazine: Trump threatened reporter with prison time 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 MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold 'series' of hearings on Mueller report MORE's report disclosed that she misled reporters about former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTop Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann lands book deal Trump to appear on 'Meet the Press' for first time as president Hicks repeatedly blocked by White House from answering Judiciary questions 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 HannityREAD: Hannity, Manafort messages released by judge Manafort, Hannity talk Trump, Mueller in previously undisclosed messages Hannity promises Trump would 'bomb the hell out of' Iran following downing of US drone 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.