President Donald Trump on Wednesday lamented the fake news spread by mainstream media outlets and reportedly declared: “It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.” The president’s outspoken disdain for media is both good and bad.
Trump lashed out at NBC News over a report indicating that he’d called for a drastic expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Here’s what NBC told readers:
President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.
Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.
According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.
Trump’s alleged desire for a larger U.S. nuclear arsenal is, according to reports, what caused Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to call the president a “moron.”
According to NBC, senior military commanders told the president that the sort of expansion he reportedly asked for would not only be prohibitively expensive but could also break with decades of U.S. nuclear policy and potentially violate nuclear disarmament treaties.
And, according to NBC, some officials who heard the president’s remarks didn’t believe he was calling for a literal doubling of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
Again from the report:
Some officials present said they did not take Trump’s desire for more nuclear weapons to be literally instructing the military to increase the actual numbers. But his comments raised questions about his familiarity with the nuclear posture and other issues, officials said.
Two officials present said that at multiple points in the discussion, the president expressed a desire not just for more nuclear weapons, but for additional U.S. troops and military equipment.
Still, President Trump responded with fury.
Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a "tenfold" increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
It’s nice to see the mainstream media called out from time to time– and trusted media should celebrate any opportunities to back reporting with sources in the face of criticism.
But Trump isn’t asking the media to back up what it’s saying about him. He’s just shouting that it isn’t true, from the bully pulpit of the White House, and suggesting that NBC should be silenced.
That’s a problem.
First of all, the FCC doesn’t really investigate allegations of over-the-air untruths. The communications agency issues broadcast licenses to individual stations and local affiliates which then carry the programming offered by national news networks. Really, the only thing the FCC ought to be doing is making sure that outlets aren’t stealing one another’s airwaves. But that’s a different story. If it did what Trump is asking, it would pretty much be an American Ministry of Truth.
Does Trump want a Ministry of Truth?
It sure sounds like he does. The president reportedly remarked Wednesday: “It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”
Trump has received plenty of criticism from the left. But observers on the conservative side of the political divide are also beginning to wonder just what he’s trying to suggest.
“The founders of our nation set as a cornerstone of our democracy the First Amendment, forever enshrining and protecting freedom of the press,” Gordon Smith, the CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters and a former Republican senator, told The Hill.
“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.”
Even conservative talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh is really freaked out by the president’s seeming disregard for the 1st Amendment.
Discussing Trump’s decision to get involved in the NFL/national anthem debate, Limbaugh suggested that the president should stop using Twitter as a personal opinion battering ram.
“I am very uncomfortable with the president of the United States being able to dictate the behavior of anybody,” Limbaugh said.
“Trump is continually tweeting, and I know what he’s doing and I understand why he’s doing it, and his motives are pure. Don’t misunderstand. But I don’t think that it is useful or helpful for anybody employee anywhere to be be forced to do something because the government says they must,” Libaugh said. “That scares the hell out of me.”
“We don’t want the president being able to demand anybody that he’s unhappy with behave in a way he requires,” he added. “That’s scary to me, even if the president is somebody I happen to like.”