President Donald Trump took another swipe at NBC News on Wednesday evening, just minutes before his interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity was set to air.
Trump reiterated his earlier attacks on NBC, questioning whether the network’s “license” should be challenged – ostensibly because he is personally incensed by news that he deems critical or unflattering. The president called network news “partisan” and “distorted” in his latest tweet on the subject, dubbing it “unfair” to the public.
The president had similar complaints in May, but on that occasion – in which he was addressing this year’s graduating class of Coast Guard cadets – Trump said media coverage was unfair to him.
“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history – and I say this with great surety – has been treated worse or more unfairly,” Trump said at the time.
The president later on Wednesday tweeted about his interview with Hannity, a close friend of the president and one of his most vociferous defenders. Fox News’ opinion programming is also decidedly friendly to the president – Hannity, in numerous interviews with Trump as a candidate and president, has rarely broached controversial topics.
Trump’s attacks against the media are anything but new, but his calling into question the news media’s ability to write and report at all, and suggesting they be pulled off the air represented an escalation of the president’s anti-press rhetoric.
Freedom of the press is codified in the US Constitution’s First Amendment, along with freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably assemble, and freedom of religion.
“Mr. President: Words spoken by the President of the United States matter,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, in a statement late Wednesday night. “Are you tonight recanting the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect, and defend the First Amendment?”
Trump’s rhetorical calls to “revoke” NBC News’ right to report on-air is largely an empty threat, as Business Insider’s Josh Barro wrote earlier Wednesday. Networks are not required to have a license – those are only reserved for individual radio and television stations.
The president has been on a tear in recent weeks, amid what has been yet another rough patch for his administration. Private feuds have spilled out into the public and people close to the White House have expressed concern about Trump’s increasingly volatile behavior. And patience among some voters may be starting to wear thin. A broad swath of Americans are growing tired of the constant turmoil, according to a Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday.