FCC chairman: Whether NY Times, CNN, NBC are 'fake news' is a ‘political debate’

FCC chairman: Whether NY Times, CNN, NBC are 'fake news' is a ‘political debate’
© Greg Nash

Federal Communications Commissioner Chairman Ajit Pai said on Thursday that President Trump’s charge that media outlets including The New York Times, CNN and NBC are “fake news” is a “political debate,” that he would not “wade into.”

When asked by separate reporters during the FCC’s monthly open meeting if those organizations were “fake news,” as Trump has repeatedly dismissed them, Pai said both times that he would not comment.

“Well look, that’s a political debate that people in the political arena have been debating back and forth,” Pai said. “My job is to not to be a political actor. It is simply to be somebody at the FCC who, as I said, is administering the laws of the United States. I’m simply not going to wade into that kind of political debate.”

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NBC, its affiliates, CNN and other broadcast companies fall within the FCC’s regulation jurisdiction.  

In a letter Pai sent to Senate Commerce Ranking Member Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonOvernight Health Care: Ryan's office warns he wasn't part of ObamaCare deal | House conservatives push for mandate repeal in final tax bill | Dem wants probe into CVS-Aetna merger Ryan's office warning he wasn't part of deal on ObamaCare: source Overnight Health Care: Funding bill could provide help for children's health program | Questions for CVS-Aetna deal | Collins doubles funding ask for ObamaCare bill MORE (D-Fla.) earlier in the week, Pai said that he did not believe that the media is the “enemy” of the American people, as Trump has previously tweeted.

Pai’s response came after Nelson and Commerce Democrats pressed Pai when he initially dodged on if the press was the “enemy” during a Senate oversight hearing of the FCC.

Pai did note in his letter to Nelson that he still was not in agreement or disagreement with Trump, because “the President has made clear that he was referring to 'fake news,’” in a speech he delivered in Washington last month.

During Thursday’s press conference, Pai expressed his continued commitment to protecting the First Amendment.

“Several years ago, I pointed out that I thought the news media performed a core job, exercising the First Amendment function of gathering news and the importance of distributing it to communities across this country, and keeping people informed,” Pai said. “I stand by those comments.”

Trump has called the press "scum" and "the opposition party," and has singled out journalists whose coverage he feels is inaccurate.