U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, said the press was “the greatest saboteur” in the 2016 election.
Mast, whose district includes northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, made the comment during a roundtable discussion with other members of Congress filmed by CBS News.
“If I would point to anyone as the greatest saboteur of our election, it would be the press and the way they drive the message that they want to drive – hands down,” Mast said.
His comment drew an immediate response from U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.
“Yeah, but what’s the alternative?” Pascrell asked Mast. “You want to do it like Greece and Turkey in terms of how they control their media, particularly their print media? I think the press has done a fantastic job.”
Pascrell then decried attacks on the press over the past six months.
“I would say the alternative is more editorializing and less opinion,” Mast said.
Members of both parties told CBS News that the press seizes on political discord, but, with Trump branding unfavorable reports as “fake news,” ripping the press has become a staple of some Republicans.
Asked for comment Wednesday, a spokesman for Mast said the congressman will let his remarks speak for themselves.
While Mast described the press as the “greatest saboteur” of the 2016 election, he has been critical of Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies said tried to influence the election.
“Unfortunately, the vacuum of power created by the Obama Administration has also been filled by Russia to sow chaos through both physical and cyber warfare,” the congressman says on his web site. “Russia’s expansion in Eastern Europe must be stopped and their attempts to influence the outcome of American elections must not be tolerated.”
Democrats have said their internal polling indicates that Mast will be among the most vulnerable Republicans in the country when he seeks re-election next year. The seat is expected to be a key part of the Democrats’ push to recapture a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In an effort to tie Mast to the unfolding Russia scandal, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has cited reporting that a Mast consultant used information the Russians stole from the DCCC’s computers in 2016.
“Congressman Mast’s campaign used information stolen by Russian hackers and then got caught trying to mislead his voters about what his campaign had done,” Cole Leiter, a DCCC spokesman, said Wednesday. “Frankly, it’s telling how far Washington he’s gone that he’s now pointing fingers at the media instead of taking responsibility for his own dirty tricks.”
Republicans have said they aren’t worried about Mast’s re-election prospects and have labeled the used-hacked-information charge as a “ridiculous lie.”