[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent letters to Federal Communications Commission officials urging them to reject a call from President Trump to challenge the licenses of news outlets based on content, and to reaffirm their commitment to uphold the First Amendment.
Last Wednesday, President 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!”
In response, Blumenthal wrote, “This is an affront to the First Amendment, freedom of the press, and founding principles of the Communications Act. A robust, free press is the cornerstone of our democracy – ensuring public access to news without governmental meddling or censorship.”
Blumenthal’s full letter is available here, and copied below.
Dear Chairman Pai:
On Wednesday morning, the President of the United States threatened to revoke a broadcaster’s license because he disagreed with the content of that station’s speech. This is an affront to the First Amendment, freedom of the press, and founding principles of the Communications Act. A robust, free press is the cornerstone of our democracy – ensuring public access to news without governmental meddling or censorship.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), created by Congress in 1934, has a long and proud history of independence. I write today to ask you to honor that independence and demonstrate that America’s institutions cannot be bullied into abandoning our core values. I ask you to commit in writing that you will not vote against any broadcast license renewal application in a manner that is inconsistent with the First Amendment.
I am sure you can appreciate what kind of chilling effect a threat like this issued from the oval office might have on newsrooms – and especially on small and independent stations. 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.
The President’s tweets were alarming in both his disregard of the FCC’s independence and flagrant disrespect for freedom of the press. I ask for your unwavering commitment that you will ensure the First Amendment remains a cornerstone of our democracy and that you will not follow through on this direction from the President. I respectfully request a written statement from you regarding your position on this matter no later than November 1, 2017. A similar letter has been sent to your colleagues.