President Donald Trump again raised a threat to the broadcast licenses of TV stations that air news programming he dislikes.
“NBC FAKE NEWS, which is under intense scrutiny over their killing the Harvey Weinstein story, is now fumbling around making excuses for their probably highly unethical conduct,” Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “I have long criticized NBC and their journalistic standards-worse than even CNN. Look at their license?”
Trump was referring to recent conflicting accounts between NBC and journalist Ronan Farrow over Farrow’s investigation into sexual harassment and assault allegedly committed by disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein. Farrow has suggested NBC sought to block his investigation of the well-connected Weinstein. Trump himself has been accused of having media allies like the National Enquirer kill unflattering stories.
The FCC, as an independent agency, is ostensibly beyond White House control. Trump does have the power to name the agency chief, and tapped the current chairman, Ajit Pai, for the role at the start of his administration.
Trump first suggested pulling broadcast licenses last year, a call many dismissed as an empty threat. Pai has avoided criticizing Trump directly but pledged his commitment to the First Amendment and has noted that the FCC lacks legal authority to revoke broadcast licenses over news content. Pai spokespeople didn’t immediately comment today.
Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel quickly moved to reject Trump’s suggestion.
“One more time . . . this is not how it works,” she tweeted Tuesday, providing a link to the agency’s broadcast rules.