Arizona’s Republican candidates for Senate slammed Sen. Jeff Flake for his speech criticizing President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press.
Former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who planned to challenge Flake in a primary before he announced he would not seek re-election, called his comparisons to Joseph Stalin “appalling and an embarrassment to the state of Arizona” in a statement.
“Arizonans voters deserve representation in the U.S. Senate that, regardless of political differences, will never engage in this type of troubling rhetoric,” she said.
.@JeffFlake’s appalling comparison of @realDonaldTrump to Soviet dictator Stalin on floor of the Senate today is an embarrassment to AZ. I call on all candidates seeking to replace him to join me in condemning it. @RealSheriffJoe @MarthaMcSally @kyrstensinema @deedra2018 pic.twitter.com/IDH3cCY7Ex
— Dr. Kelli Ward (@kelliwardaz) January 17, 2018
Ward called on both of her Republican challengers, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Rep. Martha McSally, to condemn his remarks, as well as Democratic candidates Deedra Aboud and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.
McSally, who announced her candidacy last week, echoed those criticisms in an interview with the Arizona Daily Star.
“I don’t agree with Senator Flake and comparing our President to Stalin, who murdered 20 million people, is absurd,” she said.
McSally defended Trump’s criticisms of the press by saying that the press is biased against him.
“When President Trump talks about fake news, he’s not only referring to negative coverage on himself which independent studies have confirmed is around 90 percent of all broadcast statements, he’s also referring to general media bias,” she said. “You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to presume there’s bias there.”
Similarly, Arpaio told NBC News that Flake should “resign immediately.”
Arpaio continued on Flake: “It’s almost like on the borderline—I’m not accusing him of treason. But you know, you have to be careful how you go after our commander-in-chief because the whole world is watching.”
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) January 17, 2018
“He hates the president. No doubt about it…I think he really has it in for our president,” Arpaio said of Flake.
“It’s almost like on the borderline — I’m not accusing him of treason,” Arpaio said. “But you know, you have to be careful how you go after our commander-in-chief because the whole world is watching.”
Republican-leaning consulting firm Data Orbital released a poll this week showing that McSally led among Republican challengers, according to KVOA.
The poll showed McSally had the support of 31 percent of Republicans polled, while Arpaio had 22 percent and Ward had 19 percent.
Trump also has an approval rating of 74 percent among Arizona Republicans according to the poll, up three points from October, which may be why Republican Senate candidates are comfortable in defending him.