Arizona Senator John McCain takes aim at President Trump, compares him to a 'dictator'

Posted at 6:20 PM, Feb 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-20 20:20:34-05

A political rift between Republican heavyweights is causing mixed emotions within the party.

Arizona Senator John McCain compared comments from President Donald Trump to actions of a dictator over the weekend.

“When you look at history the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press,” said McCain, speaking to Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press.

McCain’s comments were in response to a tweet by Trump last week that called the media the “enemy of the American people.” Trump has made his disdain for the media a central theme of his campaign and subsequent administration.

“They have their own agenda and their agenda is not your agenda,” Trump said about the media, speaking at a campaign-style event in Florida last week.

An official from Arizona’s Republican Party told ABC15 that they are getting a mountain of messages from Republican voters. Many want McCain to tow the party line, while others are happy McCain is back to sitting on his famous maverick mantle.

On Monday, Arizona State University political scientist Richard Herrera said McCain’s Trump criticism is likely giving voice to quietly held opinions among some Republicans in Washington D.C. However, Herrera said McCain’s opinions are likely more out of step with Arizona Republicans who largely support the president’s agenda. 

On Twitter, reactions to McCain’s Meet the Press interview seem to back up Herrera’s assessment. 

One user tweeted at McCain: “I consider you a traitor and regret voting 4 [sic] you.”

Another tweeted: “He puts country over party. As you should."