FCC head: The media is not the 'enemy of the people'

FCC head: The media is not the 'enemy of the people'
© Greg Nash

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said Monday that he does not believe the media is the "enemy of the people" as President Trump has tweeted, after sidestepping that question during a Senate Commerce hearing earlier this month.

Last week several Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee pressed Pai about the media in a letter, including asking him whether he believes that the media are the "enemy," as Trump has labeled several major outlets. Pai responded Monday in his own letter: "No." 

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The senators also asked Pai to commit to being impartial when it comes to the media and to notify the committee should the White House attempt to influence the FCC with respect to media interests. Pai said he would.

The senators' letter was signed last week by Commerce Committee Democrats including ranking member Bill NelsonBill NelsonExpanded laptop ban alarms travel industry Why does air travel seem so miserable? Offshore drilling opponents gear up for Gulf fight MORE (Fla.) and Tom UdallTom UdallVA eyes building closures to boost care under Trump GOP senator: FCC must explain 'manhandling' reporter Senate Dems warn Trump admin shows 'pattern of hostility' to press MORE (N.M.) and Maggie Hassan (N.H.).

They wrote that they found "the lack of full transparency" from Pai during the hearing on the FCC “to be unfortunate.”

“Specifically, your refusal to answer straightforward questions about how you view the media and whether you will uphold the First Amendment rights of journalists and media outlets is concerning,” their letter read.

During the oversight hearing, Pai declined to directly respond to questions about whether or not he agreed with Trump’s statement that the press is the “enemy," saying that he didn’t want to “wade into larger political debates.”

"I should note that at the hearing, I was asked if I agreed with the President that the media was the ‘enemy’ of the people. However, the President has made clear that he was referring to 'fake news,'” Pai clarified in his response. "As I stated at the hearing, these comments are part of a larger political debate into which I will not be wading."

In Trump's original tweet calling the media the 'enemy of the people,' the president specifically singled out The New York Times, CNN and NBC.

This story was last updated at 4:06 p.m.