Donald Trump loves the First Amendment. In fact, nobody loves it better than he does. But there are some things that even a free-speech absolutist can’t abide: It’s one thing to allow neo-Nazis to march with torches while chanting, “Jews will not replace us” — it’s quite another to let news networks report stories that displease the president.
Or so Trump suggested Wednesday morning.
Earlier in the day, NBC News reported that Trump had requested a nearly tenfold increase in the size of America’s nuclear arsenal last summer, much to the chagrin of his military advisers. Shortly after this meeting, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to Trump as a “moron,” according to NBC’s reporting.
After the network first disclosed Tillerson’s (alleged) remark last week, Trump boasted that he would surely score higher than the secretary of State on an IQ test.
As to the substance of Trump’s threat: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issues broadcast licenses to stations, not networks. Thus, to revoke NBC’s right to broadcast, the FCC would need to terminate the licenses that the network’s parent company, Comcast, holds for various NBC stations.
The FCC generally does not resort to such measures unless a licensed broadcast entity has engaged in severe, illegal conduct.
Earlier this year, the White House threatened to punish CNN for unfavorable coverage by ordering the Justice Department to deny the network’s parent company, Time Warner, its proposed merger with AT&T.