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Obama says he never attacked the press, and gets a scathing history lesson
Former President Barack Obama was immediately criticized for a comment he made denying that he had ever attacked the media as president the way that current President Donald Trump has. (Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

Obama says he never attacked the press, and gets a scathing history lesson

Former President Barack Obama is being applauded by many on the left for leaving the political sidelines and jumping into the fray for the midterms, but others are criticizing his lack of historical honesty for comments he made about freedom of the press.

"You never heard me threaten to shut them down"

Obama appeared to lob thin-veiled critiques against the current president in a speech at the University of Illinois Friday.

"It shouldn't be Democratic or Republican to say that we don't threaten the freedom of the press because they say things or publish stories we don't like," Obama said to loud applause.

“I complained plenty about Fox News," he continued, "but you never heard me threaten to shut them down, or call them ‘enemies of the people.’

“Under Obama, the DOJ and FBI spied on reporters..."

The former president was clearly criticizing Trump for his attacks on the media, but the comments were immediately undermined by those who remembered Obama's own less vocal, but more legal, attacks.

"Did substantially increase leak prosecutions, however," Maggie Haberman of the New York Times objected.

"Leak prosecutions were a big deal under Obama. It wasn’t a frontal attack, but it was a stealth one," she added in a response to someone defending Obama.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins responded with a quote from the New York Times summing up Obama's actions against the freedom of the press.

"Under Obama, the DOJ and FBI spied on reporters by monitoring phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to others to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify," the excerpt read.

Here's the comment from Obama's speech:

"You may not remember, but we do."

Other critics were less moderate, like former governor Mike Huckabee, who retorted, "You wiretapped the AP and reporter @JamesRosenTV and even his parents! The IRS persecuted multiple conservative groups as did DOJ. You may not remember, but we do."

"You spied on their reporters," fired back NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, "seized phone records and personal emails and declared James Rosen an enemy of the state. Holder himself signed the secret search warrant application."

Ben Shapiro responded, "Obama's legal treatment of the press was significantly worse than Trump's. It's not close, actually."

“I found that he’s very good..."

President Trump also responded to Obama's speech by mocking the lack of entertainment value he found in it.

"I'm sorry, I watched it, but I feel asleep," the president said to laughter from his audience. "I found that he's very good, he's very good for sleeping."

Here's the video of Trump's response to Obama's critique:

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