Trump spouts off on NBC

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

This week Pres­i­dent Trump, the coun­try’s thin-skinned me­dia critic in chief, took his “fake news” bash­ing to an out­ra­geous and omi­nous new level. En­raged by an NBC News re­port that that he had ex­pressed a de­sire for a "ten­fold" in­crease in nu­clear arms, Trump tweeted Wed­nes­day morn­ing: "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!"

And again, that evening: “Net­work news has be­come so par­ti­san, dis­torted and fake that li­censes must be chal­lenged and, if ap­pro­pri­ate, re­voked. Not fair to pub­lic!”

This from a man who reg­u­larly spreads dis­tor­tions, ru­mors and flat-out false­hoods from the world’s most pow­er­ful bully pul­pit.

Not for the first time, Trump was con­fused about how his own govern­ment works. Tele­vi­sion net­works aren’t li­censed by the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion; in­di­vid­ual sta­tions are, in­clud­ing the 28 owned by NBC’s par­ent com­pany. And un­der fed­eral law and the 1st Amend­ment, those lo­cal sta­tions can’t lose their li­censes un­less they run se­ri­ously afoul of the com­mis­sion’s rules — none of which deal with the qual­ity or even the fair­ness of a sta­tion’s pro­gram­ming.

Still, call­ing for a news or­ga­ni­za­tion to be sup­pressed be­cause you don’t like what it broad­casts is some­thing we ex­pect from for­eign strong­men, not the pres­i­dent of the United States. As Alexan­dra Eller­beck of the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists noted in an in­ter­view with the New York Times, such au­thor­i­tar­ian bas­tions as Rus­sia, Azer­bai­jan, Saudi Ara­bia and Turkey all de­ter­mine the fate of news out­lets’ li­censes based on the con­tent of their cov­er­age.

And while Trump may not be able to dic­tate pol­icy to the FCC, his as­ser­tion that “li­censes must be chal­lenged” could in­cite his sup­port­ers to con­test li­cense re­newals at sta­tions not con­sid­ered suf­fi­ciently pro-Trump in their news cov­er­age.

Trump also com­plained Wed­nes­day that “it is frankly dis­gust­ing the way the press is able to write what­ever they want to write, and peo­ple should look into it.” Per­haps the pres­i­dent should look into why the free­dom en­joyed by the Amer­i­can press has made it the envy of the world.

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