The United Nations human rights chief slammed President Trump on Wednesday for his "demonization" of the news media, saying his repeated attacks on the press could be tantamount to an incitement of violence against journalists.
"To call these news organizations 'fake' does tremendous damage," U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said, according to the New York Times. "I believe it could amount to incitement. At an enormous rally, referring to journalists as very, very bad people — you don't have to stretch the imagination to see then what could happen to journalists."
Al-Hussein, a Jordanian prince who has been in his latest U.N. post since 2014, made the comments during a media conference in Geneva, Switzerland. The human rights boss was referring to Trump's rally in Phoenix, Ariz., where he categorized the press's portrayal of the Charlottesville violence as "crooked media deceptions," adding that reporters were "truly dishonest people."
"It's really quite amazing when you think that freedom of the press, not only a cornerstone of the Constitution but very much something the United States defended over the years, is now itself under attack from the president himself," al-Hussein continued, per Reuters. "It's sort of a stunning turnaround. And ultimately the sequence is a dangerous one."
Al-Hussein also denounced Trump's remarks on women, Muslims, minorities, and transgender people, comparing the president to a bus driver behind the wheel of "the bus of humanity."
"And we're careening down a mountain path," he said. "At least from a human rights perspective, it seems to be reckless driving."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told the New York Times in an emailed statement that the Trump administration believed in a free press and thought "it was an important part of our democracy."
"But the press also has a big responsibility to the American people to be truthful," Sanders wrote. "Their job is to report the news, not create it."