SYDNEY (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump was wasting his time deriding the media over their coverage of his administration, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Friday, citing the example of British wartime leader Winston Churchill.
Trump has repeatedly described media criticism of him as “fake news” since taking office last month, labeling the media as the “opposition party”.
On Thursday, he dismissed a growing controversy about ties between his aides and Russia as a “ruse” and a “scam” perpetrated by a hostile news media.
Turnbull, whose relationship with Trump got off to a rocky start earlier this month, said the 45th American president should stop focusing on the media.
“A very great politician, Winston Churchill, once said that politicians complaining about the newspapers is like a sailor complaining about the sea,” Turnbull told reporters in New Zealand on Friday.
“There is not much point. That is the media we live with and we have to get our message across and we thank you all in the media for your kind attention,” he said.
Turnbull is speaking from experience as he faces a constant stream of questions from domestic media about his leadership, with opinion polls showing the popularity of his center-right government sinking to its lowest in more than a year.
Relations between the United States and Australia hit a low point this month when Trump said on Twitter that a planned refugee swap between the two nations was a “dumb deal”.
That followed a Washington Post report about an acrimonious telephone call between the two leaders that attracted headlines worldwide.
Asked about his dealings with Trump, Turnbull said: “President Trump and I have had several calls now, very constructive calls. It was frank and forthright and it was very valuable.”
Australia is a staunch U.S. ally and is currently flying combat missions in Syria. It has also said it was open to stepping up its military commitment against the militant Islamic State group.
With his promise to put “America First”, Trump has also scrapped or promised to renegotiate trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement since coming to office, but Turnbull warned against a more protectionist U.S. trade stance.
“Protectionism is not the ladder to get you out of the low growth track, it is the shovel to dig it deeper and deeper and deeper,” he said.
(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Paul Tait)