The veiled threat opens a new front in the president’s feud with the media.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested that NBC’s broadcast license should be pulled as punishment for the network’s reporting on his national security meetings, opening a new front in the president’s long-running battle with the press.
NBC News published a report Wednesday morning stating that Trump had surprised his national security advisers by proposing a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a July meeting. The meeting was what allegedly led Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to call Trump a “moron” — a comment that NBC first reported last week.
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Trump lashed out at NBC, appearing to make a threat that is not even possible, given that the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t directly license networks.
“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, equating the two TV news outlets he has most often lashed out against. “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!”
NBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The FCC had no immediate comment.
The president’s willingness to potentially challenge the broadcast licenses of a media outlet whose coverage he objects to marked an escalation in rhetoric for Trump. The president has regularly complained about coverage he views as unfairly critical, labeling stories, reporters and entire outlets “fake news.”
Although NBC is currently in Trump’s cross hairs, CNN has most often been the target of Trump’s anger with the media. The president has sought to turn the network into something of a foil for him and his supporters, who have chanted “CNN sucks” at rallies. Trump has shared images viewed by some as encouraging violence against CNN, including a professional wrestling clip that shows the president attacking a man with a CNN logo superimposed over his head and a cartoon with a “Trump” train running over a man covered by a CNN logo.
The cable network’s White House reporters have sparred often with White House press secretaries Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders during briefings, while the administration has, at times, refused to put its spokespeople and surrogates on CNN.
Trump has lobbed insults and threats at newspapers, too, most often targeting the “money losing” New York Times and The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the owner of online retail giant Amazon.
“The #AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is FAKE NEWS!” Trump wrote on Twitter in June.
The attack came one day after the Post reported that at least four Trump Organization golf properties had on display a fake Time magazine with Trump on the cover and flattering headlines about his reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” which aired on NBC.