Arizona Senator Jeff Flake said in interviews on Wednesday that “all sides” were to blame for the bombs and suspicious packages sent to prominent Democrats and media organizations such as former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and CNN headquarters in New York City.
During an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Flake told viewers that he felt President Donald Trump should stop calling the media the “enemy of the people.”
“The overheated rhetoric has gone too far. We’ve seen it for [the past] couple of years. Those of us who were on that ball field where somebody had the list of Republicans in his pocket that he wanted to target. We’re seeing it here where people on the other side of the spectrum are being targeted. We’ve seen it on all sides and everyone needs to cool it down,” Flake said.
He added, “Words matter, particularly when they’re spoken by those at the top of government. What the president says matters. If he were to take a more civil tone, it would make a difference. It would help.”
“We [should] treat our opponents as political opponents rather than enemies, that will make a difference. The president shouldn’t refer to the press as the enemy of the people,” he concluded.
GOP Sen. Jeff Flake: “Words matter. And particularly when they are spoken by those at the top of government. What the President says matters and if he were to take a more civil tone, it would make a difference” https://t.co/VKBIQTWb85 pic.twitter.com/0TSEJTOrTN— CNN (@CNN) October 24, 2018
Flake has long been a vocal critic of President Trump, according to CNN, comparing the president to Russian dictator Josef Stalin in January after continued attacks on the press. He also said the president “reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him “fake news” and warned that “without the truth, and a principled fidelity to truth and to shared facts, Mr. President, our democracy will not last.”
More recently, Flake stalled the president’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation amid accusations of sexual assault, calling for a week-long FBI investigation into the matter before later voting to confirm him.
Flake even later went on The View and said he wasn’t sure he believed Brett Kavanaugh.
While many welcome the sight of a Republican official fighting back against the president’s rhetoric, others see Flake as an opportunist trying to cash in his political chips before he retires from the Senate at the end of his term.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was quick to throw shots at Flake after he announced his plans to retire, saying, “Based on the lack of support he has from the people of Arizona, it’s probably a good move.”
In a CNN interview with Jake Tapper, Flake refused to comment directly on Sanders’ comments but did speak about what he saw as the lack of civility within the Republican Party.
“It’s difficult to move forward in a Republican primary if you have been critical of any of the behavior that’s gone on,” Flake said. “We Republicans certainly can’t countenance that kind of behavior. We ought to stand up and say ‘This is not right. This is not us. This is not conservative.'”