Donald Trump is crying, like a toddler again, because he thinks that NBC is reporting “fake news”. This is ironic, right? I mean, he was the sole beneficiary of fake news during the 2016 Presidential Election, and now he has the nerve to accuse NBC of reporting fake news? This is getting old, fast. As part of this tantrum includes Trump suggesting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should take away their license because of said fake news. Or at least challenge the license. Trump tweeted, “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!”
I don’t want to get too far away from this issue, but is Trump familiar with what constitutes a proper noun? And who is he to tell the FCC to take away a network’s operating license? Oh, that’s right, he just told the NFL that their players have to stand during the national anthem. But what’s hilarious is how the FCC Commissioner responded to his tweet. Jessica Rosenworcel offered an extremely brief response to Trump, stating “that’s not how it works”. She then linked to a manual that discusses the FCC’s regulation of broadcast radio and TV license.
But Donald Trump doesn’t care about the rules. Nor is he going to read the manual. He, like a child, is going to throw a tantrum until he gets what he wants. Adam Steinbaugh, a former lawyer who is now a writer and a free speech advocate pointed to a federal appeals court decision in 2003, which tackles this subject.
“[A] public-official defendant who threatens to employ coercive state power to stifle protected speech violates a plaintiff’s First Amendment rights even if the public-official defendant lacks direct regulatory or decision-making authority over the plaintiff or a third party that facilitates the plaintiff’s speech.”
Meaning, this is a First Amendment issue. Trump sent the tweet shortly after he heard an NBC news story about his nuclear ambitions. Calling the story “pure fiction”. NBC had reported that Trump “said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the US nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders”. Previously, the White House confirmed that Trump’s tweets are official statements coming from the President. So, there you have it – he’s calling his own words fake news.
Maybe the worst part about this is what he said about the press. I say worst because he clearly doesn’t understand the First Amendment. Trump told reporters that “it is frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.” Correct. That’s how it works. And the fact that you think it’s disgusting means nothing, Mr. President.
What makes this whole thing funny is that Trump doesn’t understand how the FCC licenses work. The FCC licenses stations, not the networks. Which means there isn’t a license that could be revoked in order to take NBC off the air. NBC is owned by Comcast, who holds broadcast licenses for several stations, but they also air on affiliate stations, which are owned by other companies. NBC owns and operates stations in major markets, but like I said, has content that airs on affiliate stations that are not owned by NBC.
Further to that, the FCC is an independent agency and is not supposed to take orders from the White House. Even though the President is responsible for nominating FCC commissioners and selecting the chairperson. Which isn’t good news for the current commissioner. Trump could try to pressure the FCC to take action, but the process is convoluted and the current Chairman, Ajit Pai, doesn’t seem to want to help the President fight these battles.
While I said that he couldn’t do anything about this, he actually might be able to. He could use their license renewal process to punish the network. Which is what happened in the 1970s, as President Nixon discussed the possibility of punishing The Washington Post for its Watergate coverage. But the one thing that can be done to stop it is for the FCC to show it’s loyalty to the law and not the President. Which sounds like the FCC wants to do anyway. This whole thing reeks of suppression. Reporters and journalists have the right to report on the news and to tell the story, but Trump doesn’t like what they have to say. He doesn’t like how he’s being painted. He looks like a child and a bully, and the only way to change that (in his mind) is to take down the media outlet. Good luck, Mr. President.