James M. Dobson, The Spectrum via Associated Press
FILE - Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney answers a question about tariffs during the debate with Democratic opponent Jenny Wilson in the America First Event Center in Cedar City, Utah, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. Romney can’t "conceive of thinking or saying" the news media is an enemy as President Donald Trump continues to do, according to an essay he posted on his campaign website Thursday.

SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney can’t "conceive of thinking or saying" the news media is an enemy as President Donald Trump continues to do, according to an essay he posted on his campaign website Thursday.

Romney wrote that someone asked him at a recent campaign event whether he would “take action to shut down ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and the New York Times.”

"When I responded ‘of course not,’ and that, in fact, I would do everything in my power to preserve freedom of speech, the person persisted by arguing that these outlets purvey fake news," the Republican U.S. Senate candidate said.

Romney and Democratic Salt Lake County Council member Jenny Wilson are running to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Constitution Party candidate Tim Aalders, Libertarian Craig Bowden and Independent American Reed McCandless are also on the ballot.

The former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee has a large lead in the polls.

In his essay, Romney referenced a Trump tweet this week that said: "There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People … "

Every president, Romney said, has endured stories that were inaccurate and chaffed at one or more news publications.

"But no American president has ever before vilified the American press or one of its professional outlets as an 'Enemy of the People,'" he wrote.

Attacking the media or publications that lean in a different direction than the Republican Party is "decidedly" good politics, Romney said, adding conservatives have "long suffered" from left-leaning media attitudes and reporting.

"As a political tactic, it may be brilliant, but it comes with a large cost to the cause of freedom," he said.

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Denigrating the media, he said, diminishes an institution that is critical to democracy, freedom, the cause of freedom abroad and national security. The work of a free press, even if biased, is essential to the preservation of the country, Romney said. The media, he said is "very much our friend."

"America is indebted as a democratic nation to the free press for truths it has uncovered, for truth it has disseminated, and for falsehoods it has repudiated," he said.

Romney said he sometimes becomes irritated by stories he knows are wrong, "especially when they are about me. But I cannot conceive of thinking or saying that the media or any responsible news organization is an enemy."