On Dec. 13, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona criticized President Donald Trump for labeling the media as "fake news."
McCain blasted the president while sharing a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists revealing 262 journalists were imprisoned in 2017.
"[Committee to Protect Journalists'] annual report shows record # of journalists imprisoned worldwide in 2017, including 21 on 'fake news' charges," McCain tweeted. "[President Donald Trump] must understand his harmful rhetoric only empowers repressive regimes to jail reporters & silence the truth."
According to a Politico report, authoritarian leaders in at least 15 countries -- including Syria, Venezuela, Turkey and the Philippines -- have repeatedly used Trump's iconic "fake news" phrase to attack the media.
"You can forge anything these days, we are living in a fake news era," said Syrian President Bashar Assad responding to a report that thousands had died at one of his military prisons.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has complained of being "demonized" by "fake news," even calling reporters "spies" while laughing alongside Trump.
McCain's comments sparked controversy on social media.
While some praised his stance, others lashed out.
"As usual the clown McCain is blaming jailed journalists on President Trump's rhetoric instead of their own lying," tweeted one in response.
Even those who don't support Trump were unimpressed by McCain's tweet.
"Stop being complicit and get him out of office," added another. "Stop empowering him by supporting everything he does. Vote for your constituents and not your party."
This is not the first time McCain has publicly blasted Trump.
In a November interview with Esquire, McCain said the president doesn't have any "principles or beliefs."
"I don’t agree with the way he’s conducting his presidency, obviously. He’s an individual that unfortunately is not anchored by a set of principles. I think he’s a person who takes advantage of situations."
McCain continued, praising Trump's success as a builder and an entrepreneur, but also stuck by his original stance.
"But I don’t think he has the fundamental underpinnings of principles and beliefs," he added.
Before that, McCain captured headlines after he again made a subtle dig at the Trump administration while receiving the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal in October, reports The Hill.
"To refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain 'the last best hope of earth' for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history," McCain said in the speech.
Sources: John McCain/Twitter, Committee To Protect Journalists, Politico, Twitter (2), Esquire, The Hill / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr / Embedded Images: T toes/Wikimedia Commons, Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons