Trump Says NBC May Be Worse Than CNN

The president is not letting up on NBC, retweeting former Fox host Bill O'Rielly's take on the FCC license issue and taking new shots at the network for its reporting, including suggesting it could be President's new 'fake news' whipping outlet--replacing CNN.

In a week when NBC News's report about Trump's alleged contemplation of massively ramping up the nuclear arsenal prompted a flood of tweets and comments excoriating the network, the president showed no signs of slowing down despite some bipartisan pushback. Thursday night Trump tweeted:

People are just now starting to find out how dishonest and disgusting (FakeNews) @NBCNews is. Viewers beware. May be worse than even @CNN!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2017

He also retweeted O'Rielly, adding some commentary:

Sadly, they and others are Fake News, and the public is just beginning to figure it out!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2017

He also retweeted this O'Rielly tweet without added comment:

A free press is vital to protecting all Americans. A corrupt press damages the Republic.

— Bill O'Reilly (@billoreilly) October 12, 2017

Trump has said the NBC News story was fake news, "pure fiction" and an attempt to demean him. NBC said the story was based on three sources in the room.

FCC chair Ajit Pai has been pushed by Hill Democrats to repudiated the president's tweets earlier this week that the network's licenses should be challenged and revoked if necessary, but had yet to comment at press time.

The NBC network and news operation are not licensed by the FCC, but NBC's owned TV stations, which air NBC News, are.

Pai has told Congress that he supports the First Amendment and would resist pressure from the administration to do anything that would threaten it, but Democrats were looking for new assurances this week, and House Dems will almost certainly press Pai at an Oct. 25 FCC oversight hearing.

Pai was not reluctant to weigh in as a commissioner when he thought President Barack Obama was pressuring the FCC to act--in that case, to impose Title II reclassification of ISPs, which Pai opposes--or to call out a newsroom diversity survey proposed by commission Democrats, which he called a threat to the First Amendment. He also strongly opposed the Fairness Doctrine, in which the government imposed content requirements on broadcasters.

"Political actors for decades have misused FCC licensing challenges to chill speech and compel FCC-approved TV programming," said Brent Skorup, research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. "This is legal because broadcasters have diminished First Amendment rights relative to other media outlets. I submitted a filing to the FCC in August recommending that the FCC restore full First Amendment rights to broadcasters and rescind the news distortion rule and the vague “public interest” requirements for broadcasters. These rules have been misused long enough."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.