Former President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media are central to his image, but he’s once again calling on the federal government to take action against NBCUniversal for its MSNBC criticism of him.
In a late night post on his social media platform Truth Social, Trump complained that MSNBC “uses FREE government approved airwaves, and yet it is nothing but a 24 hour hit job” on him and “the Republican party for the purposes of ELECTION INTERFERENCE.”
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He also attacked Brian Roberts, the CEO of NBCU parent Comcast, as a “slimeball who has been able to get away from these constant attacks for years.”
“It’s the world’s biggest political contribution to the Radical Left Democrats who, by the way, are destroying our Country. Our so-called ‘government’ should come down hard on them and make them pay for their illegal political activity. Much more to come, watch!”
A bit of background: MSNBC is a cable network, so it does not use the public airwaves. Yet even if it was a broadcast outlet, the FCC has been clear that it will not regulate news programming content. The Fairness Doctrine, which required that broadcasters present an array of viewpoints on controversial issues, was abandoned more than 35 years ago during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
The Federal Election Commission expenditure rules, meanwhile, exclude the news media, or more specifically, “any cost incurred in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial by any broadcasting station (including a cable television operator, programmer or producer).”
Trump’s attacks on NBC, MSNBC and Roberts are nothing new. In the first year of his presidency, he was upset over the network’s reporting and suggested that NBC’s broadcast license be challenged. Ajit Pai, who Trump appointed to chair the FCC, said a week later that the FCC “under the law does not have the authority to revoke the license of a broadcast station based on the content of a particular newscast.”
While Trump’s Truth Social post was one of many, many outbursts at the news media, his suggestion of government retaliation, something that would surely raise a First Amendment challenge, also comes as many of his allies and others on the right chide tech platforms for censorship over their content moderation practices.
The Republican attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana have been challenging the Biden administration’s contacts with social media platforms, claiming that they were efforts to curb misinformation about Covid vaccines and elections were in fact censoring conservative speech. The administration has argued that it is merely pointing out the spread of misinformation on platforms about urgent issues of public health and election integrity. Supreme Court last month lifted a preliminary injunction on Biden administration contacts while it will hear arguments in the case in a hearing next year.
Trump has told supporters that he would be their “retribution” in a second term, and has vowed to appoint a special prosecutor to go after Joe Biden and his family. The New York Times and The Washington Post also have been reporting in recent weeks on Trump and his allies’ plans for a second term, including taking greater hold over the federal workforce.
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