Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said Sunday that he is troubled by President Donald Trump's latest attacks on the news media because he is concerned about the danger of "weaponizing distrust," which can harm the freedoms that define a democracy.
"There's an important distinction to draw between bad stories or crappy coverage and the right that citizens have to argue about that and complain about that and trying to weaponize distrust," Sasse said in an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN's "State of the Union." "The First Amendment is the beating heart of the American experiment, and you don't get to separate the freedoms that are in there."
The Republican freshman senator's remarks come after Trump spent the past week relentlessly attacking the news media --- including CNN, MSNBC, CBS and The Washington Post --- in a barrage of tweets and at event honoring veterans Saturday night at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
"The fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them," Trump said, without offering any evidence that journalists -- who cover every public remark made by the President -- have attempted to silence him.
"The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House," Trump said. "But I'm President and they're not."
Sasse added that while "(t)here are a whole bunch of particular journalists who should be called out for particular stories that aren't good enough," it is "not helpful to call the press the enemy of the American people" --- a direct reference to language used by the President to describe journalists.
Trump has referred to the media as "the enemy of the people" several times since taking office, telling the annual Conservative Political Action Conference last winter, "A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are --- they are the enemy of the people."
Trump used the same language in February, tweeting, "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!"
Sasse said that while he agrees with Trump "that there's a lot of crappy journalism out there," if Americans are not open to hearing differing views, it's "going to be possible for people to surround themselves only with echo chambers and silos of people that already believe, only believe what they believe."
"We differ about really big and important things in this country and then we come together around the First Amendment, which is an affirmation of the fact that people are free before government," he added. "I mean, this is the Fourth of July weekend. The Declaration of Independence is pretty dang clear about this --- that we think government is just our shared tool to secure those rights."