Over the weekend, Donald Trump sang the praises of Russian president Vladimir Putin—née prime minister née president née prime minister née KGB operative–questioning criticism of Putin’s human rights record, particularly Putin’s role in the murder of journalists critical to the regime.
Here is a sampling of Trump’s opinion on the matter, via Oliver Laughland:
In a heated interview on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Trump said: “In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that. I don’t know that he has.”
Trump challenged reporters to name a journalist who had been killed in Russia at the hands of the government. Host George Stephanopoulos cited the 2006 murder of investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, which some activists have long linked to the Russian government.
“If he has killed reporters I think that’s terrible,” Trump replied. “But this isn’t like somebody that’s stood with a gun and he’s taken the blame or he’s admitted that he’s killed. He’s always denied it.
As a brief aside, consider for a moment those last two sentences. Does the denial make it OK, even if Putin was responsible? Is denial presidential, somehow?
Maynard Institute’s Richard Prince, writing in a Journal-isms post, decided to consult a source a touch more authoritative than Trump on the topic of press freedom: the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The org’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Nina Ognianova, had this to say to Prince:
For years, [Putin] and his administration have consistently cracked down on independent, critical journalism in the country, creating a climate where probing reporters are marginalized, obstructed, and treated as undesirables. In such a climate, these reporters have found themselves isolated, unprotected, and vulnerable to retaliation; their enemies, in turn, have become emboldened to silence them by use of violence — the ultimate form of censorship.
She concluded, “Yes, it has never been proven that President Putin has killed any journalists. But without a doubt he has made it easier for their killers to walk free.”
Leaders set culture. And the type of culture you set says a lot about the type of leader you are.