Indiana Gov. Mike Pence backed up running mate Donald Trump on Thursday over Trump’s assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader than President Barack Obama.
“I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in his country,” Pence said in an interview with CNN.
Pence’s comments came a day after Trump defended his positive statements about Putin in a presidential forum, citing the Russian president’s high poll numbers and saying he was simply returning the compliments the Russian president had paid him.
“If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said he is very much of a leader,” Trump said. “The man has very strong control over his country.”
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton immediately condemned Trump’s comments, asserting that the real-estate magnate would not hold Putin accountable if Trump became president.
“That is not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander in chief. It is scary,” Clinton said during a press conference Thursday.
She added: “It suggests that he will let Putin do whatever Putin wants to do.”
For his part, Putin exerts far more control within Russia over areas such as free speech and free assembly. Much of the media inside Russia is heavily state-influenced, while state censors attempt to block internet sites deemed critical of Russia.