Trump threatens network licenses over “fake news”

False news is bad and fake news is ever worse.

But, in this case, Pres. Trump’s counterpunch against NBC crosses a line.

It’s a line we need to uphold to ensure powerful state actors squelch a free press.

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Why is Pres. Trump’s tweet so objectionable?

Because it threatens to use the state’s vast powers against his political opponents.

That threat is the antithesis of constitutional, democratic governance.

That was the essence of the charge against the IRS during the Obama years: weaponize the IRS.

That’s the essence of the charges against the Deep State.

And that is what Trump is doing now (Fox News)

It is perfectly fine for him to say the news report about his wanting more nuclear weapons is completely wrong. (Link to NBC story here.)

  • The story certainly appears to be false. Gen. Mattis has backed up the President on that point. Mattis’ word is good enough for me.
  • By Wednesday evening, NBC News had not corrected or withdrawn its “exclusive report.”

It is fine for the President to call this report and others “fake news,” although his repeated use of the term and his broad brush raise troubling questions, both about Trump and about the media.

But, unless there is direct evidence that the media have knowingly falsified news reports to damage their political foes, the President should never threaten them with loss of their license.

That’s an abuse of executive power.

Threats like that from the powerful perch of the Oval Office should be called out for what they are: threats to an open, democratic, constitutional government of laws.

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2 Comments
  • Dean
    October 12, 2017

    Is that really a threat? He posed it as a question, “…at what point is it appropriate [for the president] to challenge their license?”

    The answer, of course, is “never”.

    I generally appreciate your comments and perspectives on important topics. You lost me a little on this one. I don’t see it as a threat, it’s a ‘want’, and that’s scary enough all by itself.

    • Charles Lipson
      October 12, 2017

      That’s a valuable distinction.
      I think, though, that, when powerful people express their wants, their underlings are inclined to act on them, whether that is the boss’s intention or not.
      “Who will rid me of the meddlesome network?”

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