Former President George W. Bush said during a rare interview on Monday that the media is “indispensable to democracy.”
During an interview on NBC’s Today Show, Bush said that “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account.”
“Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere,” he said.
Though Bush did not directly criticize President Donald Trump, the former president’s remarks stand in contrast with recent statements about the media made by the current president. On Friday, Trump used a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference to rail against the press.
Bush added that while he was in office, he tried to convince people such as Russian President Vladimir Putin “to accept the notion of an independent press.”
"It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves," he said.
Asked if there should be a special prosecutor appointed to investigate Russian interference in the November election, Bush replied, “I think we all need answers,” but added that he did not want to speculate on “the right avenue to take.”
Bush was also asked about Trump’s executive order that banning immigration from several predominantly Muslim nations.
“I think it’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to be able to worship the way they want to or not worship at all,” Bush said, adding, “A bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely.”
"I am for an immigration policy that is welcoming and upholds the law," he said when asked if he supported Trump’s order.
The interview marks Bush’s first in-depth interview since Trump’s inauguration.
Bush has taken up painting since his retirement. His new book, “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors,” profiles veterans Bush has painted, including 1st Lt. Melissa Stockwell, an Iraq War veteran who lost her left leg during her service in 2004.
“That’s why I’m here selling this book,” Bush joked, adding that he wants the American people to know how “fortunate” we are to have veterans who make such sacrifices for the nation and for freedom.