President Donald Trump’s longtime war against the “mainstream media” has become more aggressive in recent weeks.
Trump appeared to hint Wednesday morningon Twitter that he would like to challenge NBC’s “license” to broadcast after the outlet published an unflattering report about him. He claimed once again that the network was producing “fake” news.
Minutes earlier, Trump tweeted that NBC News “made up” a story about him requesting a “tenfold increase” to the U.S. nuclear arms supplies. The report suggested his alleged request prompted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to call Trump a “moron.” Both Tillerson and Trump have denied the allegations of name-calling.
The Federal Communications Commission only licenses individual stations, not networks like NBC, according to its website. Local community members and competitors can dispute license renewals for network-affiliated stations, but the FCC hasn’t revoked a license in over 20 years, according to The Hill.
The FCC did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment.
But FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel tweeted: “Not how it works.”
“This madcap threat, if pursued, would be blatant and unacceptable intervention in the decisions of an independent agency. The law does not countenance such interference,” said former Commissioner Michael Copps in a statement. “President Trump might be happier as emperor, but I think the American people would strip him of his clothes on this issue,” he added.
Trump’s “license” tweet is likely nothing more than an “empty threat,” Andrew Schwartzman, a communications lawyer with the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center, told Politico.
“The last thing that NBC is going to worry about is whether its broadcast licenses are in jeopardy,” Schwartzman said.
While NBC has taken the brunt of Trump’s recent anti-media vitriol, the outlet hasn’t been his only target. He trashed news outlets on Twitter at least 25 times in the last two weeks, falsely claiming yet again that The New York Times is “failing,” while accusing CNN of “disparaging” the first responders providing relief in Puerto Rico after hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Trump took his attacks even further last week when he suggested on Twitter that the Senate intelligence committee should investigate media companies.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump during a news briefing hours after he tweeted that “so much” of the news was “just made up,” though she wouldn’t say whether he actually wanted a congressional investigation into media companies.
“But with the First Amendment ... with those freedoms also come responsibilities,” Sanders said. “And you have a responsibility to tell the truth, to be accurate.”
According to the White House press pool, Trump continued his attacks on the media Wednesday afternoon.
“It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write,” he said.
Despite Trump’s repeated censure of the media and constant accusations that most negative press coverage of him is “fake,” the majority of news outlets have stood by their reporting.
Stephanie Ruhle, who co-authored the NBC News report about Tillerson calling Trump a “moron,” defended her story during an appearance on MSNBC last week.
“My source didn’t just say that he called him a ‘moron,’ Ruhle said. “He said an ‘f-ing moron.’”
This story has been updated to include reactions from current and former FCC commissioners.