After basking in the "great honor" of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s praise, Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Sunday defended Putin against longstanding accusations that his regime has carried out murders of journalists who oppose him.
During an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week,” Trump said there is no evidence that Putin was behind any journalist murders in Russia.
“In all fairness to Putin, you're saying he killed people -- I haven't seen that,” Trump told host George Stephanopoulos. “I don't know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? Do you know the names of the reporters that he's killed?”
Trump added that it would be “despicable” if Putin indeed had killed journalists. “But I haven't seen any evidence that he killed anybody, in terms of reporters,” he said.
Since the early 1990s, between 56 and 300 journalists have been killed in Russia, according to media watchdog groups. In 2006, human rights journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in what was determined to have been a politically motivated contract killing.
Several of his Republican rivals have appeared flabbergasted in recent days that Trump would wear Putin’s praise of him as a badge of honor.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign on Saturday issued a mock press release announcing that Trump had named Putin his running mate.
But on “This Week,” Trump continued to boast of the Russian strongman’s admiration.
“If Putin respects me, and if Putin wants to call me brilliant and other things that he said which were, frankly, very nice, I'll accept that and I'll accept that on behalf of our country” Trump said. “Because if we get along well with Russia, that's a positive thing, George, not a negative thing.”