October 12, 2017
Following two tweets about fake news on Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump returned to that subject eleven hours later, tweeting: “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!”
Earlier in the day, Trump responded angrily to an NBC News exclusive report saying that he asked his military leaders for a big increase in the number of U.S. nuclear weapons during a July meeting at the Pentagon.
In two Wednesday morning tweets, Trump said:
“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!”
And then: “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!”
Trump also addressed the subject in a Wednesday evening interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, who interviewed the president in Pennsylvania, just before Trump’s speech on tax cuts.
“Media is bad,” Trump told Hannity.
They are really dishonest people. These are very, very dishonest people in many cases — in many cases. And not all. Look, I know some reporters, I know some journalists that are phenomenal people and very straight, very honest. But there’s such dishonesty.
I mean, it’s interesting, if I was just watching television, you don’t know whether or not — because, you know, you’re just watching a report, but when you’re the one written about, you know if it’s good or bad and it’s always — they try to make it negative. I call it fake media. It is fake — so much fake news.
“Do you agree with that? Fake news?” Hannity asked the crowd, which cheered.
Trump said he talks about fake news “so when people read things, they can understand that so much of it is indeed fake.”
Local broadcast television stations, including NBC affliliates, 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, convenience, and necessity,” but there is no definition of what it means to serve the community.
License renewals can be challenged by anyone who wants to make a case against station operations, but almost all of those challenges are rejected. Since its inception in 1934, the FCC has granted more than 100,000 license renewals, rejecting only four applications (most recently in 1980) because the licensee failed to meet its public interest obligations.
On Wednesday, even some Republicans complained about Trump’s call to challenge broadcast stations:
“Mr. President: Words spoken by the President of the United States matter. Are you tonight recanting of the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect, and defend the First Amendment?” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) tweeted on Wednesday.
The National Association of Broadcasters also released a statement objecting to Trump’s call to challenge network licenses:
“The founders of our nation set as a cornerstone of our democracy the First Amendment, forever enshrining and protecting freedom of the press, said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith. “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