Trump threatens NBC's license over 'fake news' report

A top Democrat says the president's threat to challenge NBC's broadcast license over a story he disagrees with undermines freedom of the press.

Marguerite Reardon
Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
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Trump said NBC News was "fake news" after the broadcaster reported tension between the president and US Secretary of State Rex Rex Tillerson.

Alex Edelman / AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Wednesday took aim at TV network NBC suggesting in a tweet that the Federal Communications Commission revoke the broadcasters license.

The tweet was one in a series from Trump in which he criticized the network for a story it published Wednesday stating he wanted to increase the US nuclear arsenal by nearly tenfold.

"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 wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

He continued, "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!"

The NBC story said Trump made the remarks about the arsenal at a meeting with his national security advisers on July 20. The story also noted that at this same meeting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called Trump a "moron" after he had left the meeting. Trump refuted the story. 

The tweet threatening to revoke NBC's broadcast license is the latest in an ongoing war Trump has had with the press. The president has regularly complained about news coverage he believes is unfairly critical by labeling the stories, news outlets and even reporters as "fake news."

The FCC is an independent US agency that issues spectrum licenses to television broadcasters. These licenses must periodically be renewed. Comcast, which owns NBC, owns several licenses in major markets such as New York and Los Angeles. NBC also airs on affiliate stations owned by other companies.

Neither the White House nor Comcast/NBC Universal responded for comment on Trump's tweet. The FCC also didn't immediately comment.

Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey, a Democrat and member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking him to reject Trump's suggestion. Markey also called the president's challenge of a broadcaster's license "inappropriate."

"The First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy, and the news media plays an instrumental role in educating the American public and holding elected officials accountable," he said in the letter.  "Any insinuation that elected officials could use the levers of government to control or censor the news media would represent a startling degradation of the freedom of press."

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