President Trump on Wednesday suggested TV networks should have their broadcasting licenses challenged over “fake news” — one of his most overt threats yet to the free press.
Trump was responding to an NBC “exclusive” report, which said that Trump asked for a huge increase in U.S. nuclear weapons at a July meeting with military leaders and top advisers at the Pentagon. Broadcast television networks are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, but cable stations are not.
Over-the-air stations are required by the FCC to operate in the public interest, and license renewals can be challenged by anyone who wants to make a case against station operations.
“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!” he wrote in a tweet.
In another Wednesday tweet, Trump wrote, “Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!”
Trump kept up his criticism of the media in an appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, saying: “It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”
Trump’s war with the so-called “fake news” media has been an obsession since he started his presidential campaign. In 1972, President Richard Nixon urged his lieutenants to interfere with the renewal of the Washington Post’s licenses for Florida TV stations. The company’s stock price took a hit, and defending the licenses cost the company more than $1 million in legal fees over 2 1/2 years, publisher Katharine Graham wrote in 1997.
The attack came one day after the Post reported that at least four Trump Organization golf properties had on display a fake Time magazine with Trump on the cover and flattering headlines about his reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” which aired on NBC.