Former President George W. Bush said Monday that an independent press is vital to a functioning democracy and crucial to holding those in power accountable for their actions.
"I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy," the 43rd president said on "The Today Show." "Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power."
Bush's comments come amid high tension between President Donald Trump and the news media. The president has branded multiple outlets as "fake news" and enemies of the people.
"A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are," Trump said Friday, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference. "They are the enemy of the people because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. … They're very dishonest people."
The White House on Friday barred several news outlets from attending a briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer. Among the banned outlets were CNN and The New York Times, two frequent targets of Trump's ire.
Bush said on Monday that he encouraged other world leaders, including Russian President Vladmir Putin, to support an independent press.
"It's kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we're not willing to have one ourselves," he said.
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