Trump Threatens NBC's TV License

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President Trump

The president questioned NBC's broadcasting license on Twitter after a Wednesday NBC News report.

President Donald Trump renewed his feud with NBC News on Wednesday morning, suggesting he might revoke the parent network's broadcasting license in a tweet. 

With all the "Fake News" coming out of "NBC and the Networks," Trump wrote on Twitter, "at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?"

The National Association of Broadcasters was quick to blast Trump's threat, citing the First Amendment. The Federal Communications Commission, an independent agency, oversees licensing for television and radio stations.

NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith asserted: “The founders of our nation set as a cornerstone of our democracy the First Amendment, forever enshrining and protecting freedom of the press. 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 journalist.”

Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said the "madcap threat," if pursued, would be "blatant and unacceptable intervention." Continuing in a statement: "The law does not countenance such interference. President Trump might be happier as emperor, but I think the American people would strip him of his clothes on this issue. Additionally, it’s not just NBC stations that will find this threat chilling, but also smaller independent stations around the country who might lack the resources to fight back.”

The president continued to threaten broadcast licensing as the day went on, returning to Twitter Wednesday night to say, "Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!"

The media collectively responded to Trump with analysis posts on whether or not the stations could be impacted by the president's threat. The Hollywood Reporter's Daniel Fienberg wrote about Trump's "peacucking," which he defined as "the impotent sensation that NBC and associated properties are out to get you." CNN's Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter explained that the process of challenging broadcast licenses is much more complicated than Trump is proclaiming, though his challenging of free speech terms is worth noting. 

On Thursday morning, he responded by calling out the "fake news" over the coverage.

Trump's tweet on Wednesday came with a denial about an NBC News report saying he asked to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The report said Trump suggested a nearly tenfold increase during a meeting with high-ranking security leaders, citing three officials who were present. The request came as a surprise to Trump's advisers including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, NBC reported, and was reportedly the cause of Tillerson's now widely known "moron" comment.

Trump has been publicly pushing back against NBC News since an Oct. 4 report claimed Tillerson considered resigning and that he had called Trump a "moron." Tillerson ended up calling a press conference after the story, and though he declined to outright deny the insult, he described the report as "petty nonsense." Trump later said the story was "made up."

On Wednesday, Trump also tweeted that "Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a 'tenfold' increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal," calling the report "pure fiction, made up to demean" and likening NBC to his more common "fake news" target, CNN. 

When speaking to the White House press corps later on Wednesday, Trump said "it is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write” when asked about the NBC report on his alleged nuclear arsenal request.

Oct. 11, 10:20 a.m.: Updated with NAB, Copps statements

11:30 a.m.: Updated with Trump statement to press corps.

Oct. 12, 8:20 a.m.: Updated with Trump Wednesday night, Thursday reaction

Carolyn Giardina contributed to this report.