In his final scheduled news conference of the year, President Obama on Friday said the fact that over a third of Republican voters approve of Russian President Vladimir Putin would prompt Ronald Reagan "roll over in his grave."
"There was a survey some of you saw, now this is just one poll, but a pretty credible source, 37% of Republican voters approve of Putin," Obama said. "Over a third of Republican voters approve of Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB. Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave."
The president was citing a poll released Wednesday by The Economist and YouGov.
Obama made the statement as part of his answer to a question about Russia dividing the United States.
Among those who identified as Republicans in the survey, 5% said that they had a "very favorable" opinion of Putin, and 32% said they had a "somewhat favorable" opinion of the Russian leader.
"Because of the fierceness of the partisan battle, you've started to see certain folks in the Republican Party and Republican voters suddenly finding a government and individuals who stand contrary to everything we stand for as being OK because that's how much we dislike Democrats.
"I mean, think about it, some of the people who historically have been very critical of me for engaging with Russians and having conversations with them also endorsed the president-elect even as he was saying that we should stop sanctioning Russia and being tough on them and work together with them against our common enemies.
"He was very complimentary of Mr. Putin personally. That wasn't news. The president-elect during the campaign said so. And some folks who had made a career out of being anti-Russian didn't say anything about it.
"And then after the election, suddenly they're asking, 'Why didn't you tell us that maybe the Russians were trying to help our candidate?' Well, come on."
Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 6055 A264 DADD AADC 347E 5986 547C C11C DD7D 176A.
Contact Ellie Hall at email@example.com.
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