President Donald Trump denied ever calling for a bigger U.S. nuclear arsenal and wanted to know whether FCC licenses should be taken from NBC television channel after the network wrote a tale on Wednesday saying he had done so in a meeting with military and security officials.
” It’s candidly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write and people should want to look into it ,” Trump told reporters as he met at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trump’s denial was backed up by a statement by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.” Recent reports that the President called for an increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal are perfectly false ,” Mattis said.” This various kinds of erroneous reporting is irresponsible .”
NBC said that Trump built his remarks about the arsenal at a meeting with his national security consultants on July 20, and that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a “moron” after he left that session.
Trump first issued a repudiation on Twitter early Wednesday and then created the prospect of challenging FCC licenses. NBCUniversal, the mother company of the network, is owned by Comcast Corp .
” With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their Permission? Bad for country !” he wrote in a tweet.
The president doubled-down on the threat Wednesday night, saying on Twitter that” Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, cancelled. Not fair to public !”
Comcast shares slid somewhat less after Trump’s tweet, down 0.7 percent to $37.41 at 10:28 a.m. in New York.
Trump has occasionally threatened to use the powers of his office against news organizations that cross him. During his campaign, and again in March, he mused about loosening libel statute to make it easier to win lawsuits over inaccurate stories. In an Oct. 5 tweet he urged the Senate Intelligence Committee to analyse mainstream media organizations’ news coverage as part of its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon exhorted his lieutenants to interfere with the renewal of the Washington Post’s licenses for Florida TV stations. The company’s stock cost took a hit, and protecting the licenses cost the company more than$ 1 million in legal fees over 2 1/2 years, publisher Katharine Graham wrote in 1997.
” Of all the threats to the company during Watergate — the attempts to undermine our credibility, the petty slights, and the favoring of the competitor — the best available were the challenges to the licenses of our two Florida television stations ,” Graham wrote in her memoir.
Trump’s tweet was reminiscent of the episode.
” Is that Mr. Nixon speaking? That’s the last time we had that ,” said Peter Tannenwald, a communications attorney.
Tannenwald, who has practised law for 50 times, couldn’t recall an instance of a Tv license being revoked because of the station’s programming.
Democrats detonation the president’s act as a clearly defined attempt to intimidate journalists.
Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts exhorted the Federal Communications Commission in a letter to” withstand any advises from President Trump to harm the news media and infringe upon the First Amendment .”
“@ POTUS is again openly indicating an abuse of power ,” Senator Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, said in a tweet.
Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the FCC, tweeted simply,” Not how it works .”
The FCC’s Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, who was chosen by Trump, didn’t respond to requests by email and telephone for comment.
The National Association of Broadcasters said Trump’s threat to use regulatory authority against the television network transgresses the Constitution’s First Amendment protection for press freedom.
” It is contrary to this fundamental right for any government official to threaten the revocation of an FCC license simply because of a disagreement with the reporting of a correspondent ,” Gordon Smith, president of the Washington-based trade group, said in an emailed comment. Smith is a former Republican U.S. senator from Oregon.
The FCC issues licenses to proprietors of television stations, which must be periodically renewed. Comcast owns 10 NBC stations, including in New York and Los Angeles, and it said in a filing this year that” substantially all of our broadcast television channel licenses have pending applications for renewal .”
The television network likewise broadcasts through more than 200 stations owned by independent industries. Affiliate proprietors include Gray Television Inc ., which listed 29 NBC stations in a March filing, and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc ., which listed 22 stations in an annual filing in February.
The White House didn’t immediately statement. An NBCUniversal spokeswoman declined to comment.
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Trump and NBC have a uniquely complicated relationship.
NBC induced Trump a star by airing” The Apprentice .” And Trump hosted NBC’s” Saturday Night Live” during the presidential campaign.
However, Trump has threatened to break up Comcast. Alec Baldwin routinely skewers Trump on” Saturday Night Live .” And NBC said it cut ties with Trump in 2015 after he derided Mexican immigrants as “rapists” during a speech announcing his presidential campaign, saying it would no longer air the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants — a joint undertaking between Trump and NBC.