Dems urge FCC head to take tougher stance against Trump's media attacks

Dems urge FCC head to take tougher stance against Trump's media attacks
© Greg Nash

Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday called on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to take a tougher stand against President Trump over calls the president made to challenge broadcast licenses. 

The push comes after Trump suggested last week that the federal government should "challenge" broadcast licenses in response to an NBC report saying the president had expressed a desire to increase America's nuclear arsenal. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“Chairman Pai was right to assure the public that the FCC cannot revoke any broadcast licenses based on the content of a specific newscast, but I am disappointed that the Chairman continues to remain silent on the President’s ongoing efforts to intimidate and threaten news outlets,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the top Democrat in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Pallone and others want Pai to directly denounce Trump’s call for the FCC to take action against NBC.

“What we needed is a full-throated defense of the independence of the FCC against political interference,” Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzPolls show trust in scientific, political institutions eroding Emboldened Democrats haggle over 2021 agenda OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate Democrats map out climate change strategy | Green groups challenge Trump plan to open 82 percent of Alaska reserve to drilling | 87 lawmakers ask EPA to reverse course after rescinding methane regulations MORE (D-Hawaii) said in a statement also criticizing Pai’s response.

“This statement is short of the clear and unambiguous message that I want in response [to Trump’s tweet],” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told The Hill on Tuesday. 

Democratic Senate Commerce Committee members Schatz, Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallLWCF modernization: Restoring the promise OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency MORE (D-N.M.) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanCongress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power MORE (D-N.H.) are calling for an FCC oversight hearing to directly press the chairman to address Trump’s comments. Commerce Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMassachusetts town clerk resigns after delays to primary vote count Bogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration Senate Democrats urge Amazon to recall, stop sales of explosive products MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility Democratic lawmakers call for an investigation into allegations of medical neglect at Georgia ICE facility Black Voters Matter Fund deploying voter outreach caravans in 12 states to drive turnout MORE (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthMcConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled Biden courts veterans amid fallout from Trump military controversies John Fogerty: 'Confounding' that Trump campaign played 'Fortunate Son' at rally MORE (D-Ill.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharEPA delivers win for ethanol industry angered by waivers to refiners It's time for newspapers to stop endorsing presidential candidates Biden marks anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, knocks Trump and McConnell MORE (D-Minn.), as well as Blumenthal, all signed a letter supporting the hearing.

“It is imperative that FCC Chairman Pai and his fellow Commissioners address this Committee and respond to the President’s stated desire for regulatory abuse of his perceived critics at the FCC,” they wrote.

The lawmakers’ criticism comes after Pai fielded a question during an AT&T Policy event on Trump’s tweet attacking NBC.

“Under the law, the FCC does not have the authority to revoke license of a broadcast station based on content of a program,” said Pai, who was appointed by Trump. 

Pai’s comments came in response to a question regarding one of Trump's tweets last week, in which he directly attacked NBC.

“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!” Trump tweeted.

“Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!” he wrote in a separate tweet.

Almost immediately after the remarks, lawmakers and government officials called on Pai to denounce the president’s comments. Pai did not speak on the matter until Tuesday.

The FCC chairman had previously faced pressure from Democratic lawmakers after Trump called The New York Times, NBC and CNN “fake news media.”

Following a grilling by Democratic senators in the spring, Pai said he was committed to the First Amendment but qualified that he would not “wade into that kind of political debate.”

Pai has been at consistent odds with Democrats since becoming chairman in February. The two have fought over broadband privacy rules that would have prevented internet service providers from selling consumer data, and fiercely clashed on net neutrality rules, which Pai has said he wants to roll back.