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So we’re just going to jump into it. Yesterday morning, the President Tweeted the following: “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”
That comment was in response to an NBC news report about a July 20 meeting where the President said he wanted a 10-fold increase in the US nuclear arsenal, and everyone had to patiently explain the costs, the impracticality, and the international agreements that prevented such a thing. It was also after that meeting that Rex Tillerson allegedly called the President a “moron.” (Not only does the President dispute that report, but several other people, including Gen. Mattis, say the report is inaccurate.)
Okay, first things first, the President’s Tweets are (according to the White House) official statements by the President of the United States. Just to be clear: the President of the United States publicly threatened the broadcast license of a critical media outlet in an official statement.
Trump continued later, saying in a meeting with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should want to look into it.”
There are a few things wrong with this. As Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the FCC, observed on Twitter, this is “not how it works.” She added a link to the FCC regulation guide that says, “The Constitution’s protection of free speech includes that of programming that may be objectionable to many viewer[s] or listeners. Thus, the FCC cannot prevent the broadcast of any particular point of view.” But also the FCC licenses local stations. So it’s not like NBC, the network, has an overarching license to pull.
So yeah, that happened. The reaction went far beyond Rosenworcel with criticism coming from both the left and right on First Amendment grounds. Either this will dominate the news for a while or it will blow over when something else comes along.
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