Attorney General William Barr, the focus of intense public scrutiny for revising a stiff sentencing recommendation for longtime GOP operative Roger Stone, took aim at the press Wednesday lamenting a "massively consolidated" media landscape in which journalists are increasingly abandoning objectivity.
In a speech before the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, the attorney general referred to the press as "remarkably monolithic in viewpoint," adding that journalists "see themselves less as objective reporters of the facts and more as agents of change."
"These developments have given the press an unprecedented ability to mobilize a broad segment of the public on a national scale and direct that opinion in a particular direction," Barr said. "Not only does it become easier for the press to mobilize a majority, but the mobilized majority becomes more powerful and overweening with the press as its ally."
Barr's biting criticism appeared to echo the dark appraisals of President Donald Trump who has labeled large segments of the press as the "fake news" for its reporting on the Trump administration.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump suggested that the press was overstating the threat posed by the deadly coronavirus and contributing to a national panic.
Trump said reporters were "doing everything possible to make the coronavirus look as bad as possible," blaming press reports for the recent stock market plunge.
In his remarks in Nashville, Tennessee, Barr said the evolution of the media represented a less-than-positive cycle.
"I think it is fair to say that it puts the press’ role as a breakwater for the tyranny of the majority in jeopardy," he said. "The key to restoring the press in that vital role is to cultivate a greater diversity of voices in the media."
Speaking directly to his audience, Barr called the group of broadcasters "the last holdouts in the consolidation of organs and viewpoints of the press."
"It is, therefore, essential that you continue your work and continue to supply the people with diverse, divergent perspectives on the news of the day," he said. "And in this secular age, it is especially vital that your religious perspective is voiced."
Barr's intervention in the Stone case ignited a firestorm, which raised new questions about the Justice Department's independence from the White House. While Barr said that Trump did not influence his decision to revise the sentencing referral, Trump publicly commended the attorney general for intervening on behalf of the president's friend.
Last week, Stone was sentenced to just more than three years in prison on seven felony convictions in a case that emerged from Justice special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: AG William Barr laments 'massively consolidated' mainstream press