WASHINGTON • Mr Donald Trump unveiled the winners of his much-touted "Fake News Awards", hours after a maverick senator from the President's own Republican Party accused him of employing Stalinist language to "slur" and undermine the free press.
Arizona lawmaker Jeff Flake levelled the broadside in an address from the Senate floor earlier on Wednesday, delivering a one-two punch after veteran Republican John McCain penned an op-ed assailing Mr Trump's spoof awards.
The brash President later announced his top-10 list - which included his regular targets CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post - using his preferred medium of Twitter, linking to a list published on the Republican Party's website that crashed minutes after his big reveal.
Mr Flake slammed what he called Mr Trump's dangerous disregard for the truth, and his designation of the mainstream news media as an "enemy of the people".
"Mr President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies," said Senator Flake, who is not seeking re-election this year.
"When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that does not suit him 'fake news', it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press."
Of the "awards" themselves, Mr Flake said "it beggars belief that an American president would engage in such a spectacle yet here we are", and urged his fellow lawmakers to take a stand in support of the press.
When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that does not suit him 'fake news', it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.
REPUBLICAN SENATOR JEFF FLAKE
At loggerheads with much of the US news media since his election, Mr Trump finally doled out his "Fake News Awards" after weeks of speculation, recognising what he had called "the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media".
Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman, who writes a regular opinion column - not news articles - for NYTimes, was at No. 1 spot.
The administration said he merited the award for writing "on the day of President Trump's historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover".
The list also pointed to an error from veteran ABC reporter Brian Ross, who was suspended for four weeks after he was forced to correct a bombshell report on former Trump aide Michael Flynn.
Mr Flake's combative stance was mirrored by his Arizona colleague McCain, in an opinion piece for The Washington Post entitled "Mr President, stop attacking the press".
"Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy," Mr McCain warned.