“Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it?” Trump said, according to Bloomberg White House reporter Jennifer Jacobs. “You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do.”
“We also have,” Putin responded. “It’s the same.”
Twenty-five journalists have been murdered in Russia since Putin first became president in 2000, according to a database maintained by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
As for press freedom in Russia, Reporters Without Borders ranks the nation at No. 149 out of 180 for a “stifling atmosphere for independent journalists.”
The group offers a grim assessment of the state of independent media in Russia:
As TV channels continue to inundate viewers with propaganda, the climate has become very oppressive for those who question the new patriotic and neo-conservative discourse, or just try to maintain quality journalism. More journalists are now in prison than at any time since the fall of the Soviet Union and more and more bloggers are being jailed.
“Murders and physical attacks against journalists continue to go unpunished,” it wrote.
The joke drew sharp criticism from 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). “The president is looking out for himself,” she wrote in a tweet, “not the American people.”
Today, Trump joked with Putin about interfering in our elections. He joked about getting "rid of" journalists with a man who has reporters murdered. The president is looking out for himself—not the American people. We need a president who will always stand up for American values.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 28, 2019
The moment echoes a comment made during the meeting the two shared at the 2017 G-20 summit. As the two huddled in Hamburg, Germany, Putin gestured to the journalists in the room and asked, “These are the ones hurting you?”
“These are the ones,” Trump said, sharing chuckles with the Russian leader. “You’re right about that.”