Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He called press freedom "frankly disgusting."

Bristling at news reports that he wanted to massively increase the United States' stockpile of nuclear weapons--reports that were sourced to the military leaders who were shocked by his position--Trump tweeted early this morning that broadcasters should lose their licenses if they were as "partisan, distorted and fake." Later in the day he told reporters that "it's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it."

NBC, the target of Trump's anger this morning, cannot (legally) be yanked off the air, since broadcast licenses are given to individual local stations. More to the point, while there are reasons that a broadcast license can be challenged, airing news programs that the president does not like isn't one of them.

Even presidents who loathe the press typically avoid attacking the basic concept of an independent media, which helps explain the horrified reaction many conservatives and Republicans had to Trump's demands. The last president to make any similar threat was Richard Nixon, who instructed political allies to challenge the licenses of TV stations owned by the Washington Post. The Post, of course, was instrumental in breaking the Watergate story that forced President Nixon to resign the following year.

Trump and the Trump campaign are under investigation to determine whether they conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election, including with carefully targeted disinformation campaigns--or "fake news" as Trump would call it.

Why should I care about this?

  • It doesn't really help Trump's case here that he's already on record as wanting to greatly increase the nuclear arsenal of the United States.