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Trump Threatens to Challenge NBCUniversal’s Broadcast Licenses Over NBC News Report

President Donald Trump has threatened to challenge the broadcast licenses of NBC and other networks in a series of tweets posted Wednesday morning.

The tweets were apparently spurred by a report from NBC News that said Trump expressed a desire to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal by tenfold.

“Fake [NBC News] made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!” Trump tweeted. “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!”

NBC declined to comment.

Trump’s threat to challenge the broadcast licenses that NBC holds with the FCC for its owned-and-operated stations recalls President Richard Nixon’s similar threats against the Washington Post’s parent company at the height of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. However, Nixon’s threats were made in private, not for public consumption on social media.

In reality, a challenge to NBC’s broadcast licenses would be a lengthy process involving petitions at the FCC. But Trump’s statement predictably raised hackles in media circles as it raised the specter of government censorship of a news organization. The National Association of Broadcasters was quick to issue a statement after Trump’s tweet.

“The founders of our nation set as a cornerstone of our democracy the First Amendment, forever enshrining and protecting freedom of the press,” NAB president Gordon Smith said. “It is contrary to this fundamental right for any government official to threaten the revocation of an FCC license simply because of a disagreement with the reporting of a journalist.”

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