Published: Tue, October 17, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

FCC Chairman Says He Supports Free Speech But Does Not Condemn Trump

FCC Chairman Says He Supports Free Speech But Does Not Condemn Trump

Without calling out President Trump by name, Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai shut down the idea Trump put forward last week that NBC and other broadcasters could be punished for "Fake News" by blocking the renewal of their station licenses, a process the FCC oversees.

Pai confronted the question at an event hosted by the Mercatus Center, after days of dodging reporters' questions about Trump's tweet.

But Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly has now said that "politics" should not interfere with FCC decision-making and that the agency should remain independent.

The president later told his 40.6 million Twitter followers that, "Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked". Pai said "traditionally that has not been within the FCC jurisdiction".

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Immediately, a number of Democrats - including Pai's colleagues at the FCC, Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn - expressed their dissatisfaction with Trump's comments.

Tom Wheeler, who led the FCC under Democratic President Donald Trump, told CNN that Pai was "making himself complicit in the coercion that the president was engaging in". "I believe in the First Amendment".

"The president's calls to revoke broadcaster licenses based on speech content are an affront to the First Amendment and American values", Blumenthal said. For one thing, NBC's main, national network isn't licensed by the USA government.

"As FCC Chairman, sworn to uphold both the Constitution and the Communications Act, you have a duty to condemn this attack and reassure our nation and our journalists that you will stand up for them and protect and defend their fundamental freedoms", Blumenthal wrote in a letter.

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