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Trump Under Fire For Proposing Limits On Freedom Of The Press

A Republican senator slammed President Trump on Wednesday for tweeting that it is “disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”

The president said the broadcast licenses of “fake news” organizations should be “challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.” He wrote: “The press should speak more honestly. I’ve seen a tremendously dishonest press.” Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who has been at odds with Trump on other issues as well, responded in a written statement: “Mr. President, words spoken by the president of the United States matter. Are you tonight recanting of the oath you took on January 20 to preserve, protect and defend the First Amendment?”

The Hill reported that Sasse is among many members of both major political parties who reacted to Trump’s comments with concern that he was threatening the constitutional guarantee of press freedom. Some commentators pointed out that restraining news organizations is often one of the first acts of an authoritarian regime. When reporters grilled the president later, he insisted he did not plan to propose any restrictions on the media.

However, Trump urged federal regulators to reconsider NBC News’ broadcast license after the network reported that he had called for a “tenfold” increase in U.S. nuclear weapons. The president denied the story, which reportedly came from high-ranking military sources. “When they make up stories like that, that’s just made up, and the generals will tell you that,” he said. “And then they have sources that don’t exist. They don’t exist. They make up the sources. There are no sources.” Trump also is upset with NBC News for breaking the story that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a “moron.”

The president suggested that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is looking into the Trump-Russia scandal, should be investigating “fake news.” He also has said Congress should “open up” libel laws to make it easier to sue news outlets.

Rescinding broadcast licenses for political reasons is unlikely to happen, according to analysts. “Not how it works,” tweeted Jessica Rosenworcel, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission. However, Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey expressed concern that the “threat alone could intimidate the press, and lead to skewed and unfair reporting.” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, declared in a written statement: “The FCC must show that it is loyal to the law, not the president, and make clear that it rejects this kind of interference.”

Even some conservative Christian leaders disagree with Trump on the issue. “Dear evangelicals, this is a precedent you should worry about when the other side uses it if you stay silent now,” Erick Erickson tweeted. Joe Walsh added: “Look, I’m no fan of NBC, but you can’t have POTUS threatening to take their license away. That’s just wrong.” Rush Limbaugh said Trump’s war on the press is “starting to make me nervous.”

Bashing the mainstream media is nothing new for Trump. Throughout his campaign, he claimed the press was biased in favor of Hillary Clinton. He encouraged his supporters to jeer reporters at rallies. As president, he has continued to accuse the press of “unfair” and “partisan” coverage.

Source: The Hill, The Hill
Photo: The Hill Screenshot, Twitter

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